Fr. Philip Sang: Walking in the Light

Sermon delivered on Advent Sunday A, November 27, 2016, at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

If you prefer to listen to the audio podcast of today’s sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122.1-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44.

Christmas is already here for some because carols can be heard over the air waves, trees with colored lights can be seen in some yards or living rooms, but mostly because merchants have been selling Christmas for weeks now. For us and some other Christian denominations, Christmas is in the air because Advent is finally here.

Advent is from the Latin word “adventus,” which means coming. This is a season, we are reminded that Christ is coming back to earth for a second time.

Other “A” words associated with Advent are: aware, alert, attuned, alive and attentive.

Today we celebrate the beginning of the Advent season. We start on a journey toward Bethlehem, where God meets us through the gentleness of the Christ-child. We move towards the humble stable, following the star, in the hope of finding the One who will finally bring healing, hope and new life into each of our lives.

As ‘we enter into this season we are shocked at how quickly the time has gone.Even the snow seems to have missed a beat this year. I don’t know about you, but I feel as if this Advent season has broken in too fast. I’m not ready yet! There are a 1001 things that still have to be done.

For many people Advent is not filled with the air of expectation and anticipation that is supposed to be part of the season. In place of joy they feel sadness. In place of fulfillment, loss. In place of celebration with family and friends, loneliness and despair.

Our hearts go out to those people throughout the world and especially among us, whose Christmas season will not be like any other. We cry with those whose Christmas will be a lonely time — maybe for the first time after the loss of a loved one.

We do well to take note of the unpredictable nature of God’s coming into our lives. We do well to be reminded of God’s Second Advent, and to heed the warning that God will break into our lives again at any time — like a thief in the night.

The article to members of Crosswalk church send by Fr. Maney on the newsletter this week had a question related to today’s readings

Q: Why are there so many scripture readings?

  • The readings are intended to tell part of the story of Jesus. Leading up to
    Christmas, many passages sound bleak and sad. That’s because Jesus came
    to bring light into a dark world. So those bleak and sad passages help us
    understand the level of darkness Jesus came to destroy.
  • The readings also help turn our attention forward to the day of Jesus’ second
    coming, when darkness will be destroyed once and for all.

During Advent we acknowledge the darkness that exists in our world, and our desperation for the light of Christ.

The Prophet Isaiah invites us to anticipate a time when all peoples and nations will turn toward God. He anticipates a time when the whole world will turn to God for light and direction. Let me read Isaiah 2:2-5

In the last days the mountain of the LORD ‘s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. ” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. {They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. } Come, 0 house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

This passage from the Book of Isaiah comes from around 740 BCE. It was a time when Israel’s enemies threatened the divided nation. Isaiah calls the people to look to God for hope and salvation.

Israel was waiting for a big event that would bring in the Kingdom of the Messiah. The people were waiting for God Himself to come down from heaven and destroy the enemies. But God’s people placed their hope for salvation in a great military leader.

Imagine Israel’s disappointment when the prophet later announced the birth of a child. Listen to Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. ” And in 1l:3ff: “He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. And A Little Child Will Lead Them.”

Can you imagine the reaction? They will have argued, “What does a little child know about leading?” “We need a military King, a warrior, better technology.” “How can God save us through a common child?”

We too journey into the advent season, expecting great things to happen. We expect God to do a miracle to keep our families together and to bring those who are lost back into the fold. We hope that God will bring peace to ?ghting nations and communities like mine. We wait for the miracle of reconciliation in bitter and angry church conflicts and experiences we have seen after election. We pray for revival and New Life. You and I wait on God for our salvation!

The whole world is eagerly awaiting salvation from God. Indeed, our souls are searching for a sign from God. Our souls hunger for an inner peace that cannot be achieved through our own efforts. The problem is, that we go looking for that inner peace in all the wrong places. (People are looking for fulfillment in the sciences and in space exploration. We search for answers to life ’s complex questions. We look for fulfillment in technology and education. We hope to find it in a good job and financial achievement. We go looking in health clubs, sports, entertainment, the community hall, the Internet, pornography, and countless other places).

Where do you go looking for God? Where do you hope to ?nd peace for your soul? God sees the needs of His people, and He does not turn away. He hears the cry of those who are in despair — and He acts.

Maybe your heart is crying to God right now. Maybe you are in despair and experiencing a time of the deep night of the soul. Then I encourage you, Friend, to watch and wait for God’s salvation!

But, be careful, that you don’t miss it because you didn’t recognize it. God’s salvation does not come to us with noisy parades and spectacular ?reworks. God is at work in the ordinary places and events of our lives. God’s salvation comes to us in an innocent little child in a manger, among donkeys and oxen, and sheep and shepherds. God’s grace and forgiveness comes to us in small packages… In expressions of love and compassion.

God promises that a little child will lead us, and teach us, and show us the way. The New Life represented in the birth of the baby Jesus sets us free to walk with hope in His light. The assurance of God’s ultimate victory over sin and death gives us the confidence to seek His face and to follow where He leads us.

Advent is not only looking back to the events that took place in a dimly lit stable in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Advent has a second dimension: a future hope. Advent is also a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ.

Isaiah encourages us, in the light of the Things to Come, to act decisively, (Isaiah 60:1f):

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Lift up your eyes
and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will
be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

In the light of our fixture hope in an everlasting Kingdom we are called to action. Arise, Shine, and walk in His light! Walking in God’s light means to live each day as if it were our last. It means that we take the opportunities that God gives you and me, to restore hope and healing in someone else’s life.

The season that is upon us gives us many challenges and opportunities to walk in the light of Christ, to stand with others in their loneliness and despair, to cast a ray of hope into someone’s dark existence.

The Season is short, therefore Seize the Day while there is still light! If we can take the time and make the effort during Advent to be more awake, alert, attentive and alive to God’s presence in the people we encounter and all the circumstances we face, this Christmas will be more meaningful for everyone around us.

In the reading from the prophet Isaiah we heard earlier, God envisions a world transformed. What’s coming is a time when all wars will cease and weapons will be converted to implements of agriculture. Can we walk in the light of that future now?

Jesus tells us in the gospel that his second coming will be similar to those who missed their reservation on Noah’s ark, some have suggested that, today, the church is comparable to the ark.

Jesus goes on in the gospel to describe two pairs of people going about their daily chores side by side, two will be working in the ?eld, and two will be grinding meal. When Jesus returns only one from each set will be taken. Why the one when both are doing the exact same thing? We must assume that, in each case, only one was ready, awake, expectant and spiritually attuned. The other must have been in a state of ignorance. We may not have to be in church when Jesus comes, but being in church and part of the body of Christ regularly should keep us mindful of another reality breaking in.

We, too, are expected to go about our daily activities with love and care all the while knowing that at any minute Christ might come again and call us home. We will always be prepared for such a moment if we are committed to loving God and our neighbor as ourselves.

Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. “Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Welcome Advent in the name of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.