Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The official color is purple. It’s significant that it follows last Sunday service where we celebrated Christ the King. Purple is the color for royalty or divinity. Another thing about Advent that I appreciate it is a time to prepare our hearts, like Lent. Lent is a more solemn time of the year. That is a time to take inventory of your heart and of your life. It is a time often compared to with Spring cleaning. Advent is a more hope-filled time, turning away from the purple to blue, distinguishing Advent from Lent. It also signifies the color of the night sky or the waters of new creation.
Advent looks forward to God coming to live and become part of our world in a human form, a time to remember that Jesus has moved into our neighborhood and in this we remember and rejoice, therefore blue replaces the color purple as perhaps more pertinent. That’s specifically what the first Sunday of Advent is about. God is coming to live among us, to be our guest on this earth.
I know this gospel passage is a troublesome passage to read, but we need to understand the mindset of the Gospel writer and what was happening in the Western world. The Siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE was the decisive event of the First Jewish–Roman War. The Roman army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with Tiberius Julius Alexander as his second-in-command, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been controlled by Judean rebel factions since 66 CE, following the Jerusalem riots of 66, when the Judean Free Government was formed in Jerusalem. Josephus said that Jerusalem was attacked so terribly that bodies were piled high in the streets, and Roman soldiers had to crawl over them to continue their killings and pillaging.
Throughout history people have been talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ and pointing to the signs, the moon will be red, there will be wars and rumors of wars, and it is true today and probably more dangerous today than for any other time in history. The elimination of all the people on earth is a terrible concept to think about, the reality of multiple nations with nuclear threats right at someone’s fingertips. There are 9 nations in the world that have nuclear weapons and as you know, there are others working to add to this number, close to 15,000 nuclear weapons, a scary thought.
The earth is growing hotter and hotter, and species are beginning to disappear. Scientists agree that within 10 billion years the earth will burn itself up, and all life as we know it will disappear within 5 billion years. That’s a long time, right? But, not so long in the context of the age of space and the existence of the universe. It’s a terrible reality to know that we as humans can do more to slow down the effects of climate change, and not speed that process along.
With all the political turmoil, the social malaise, wars and rumors of wars, fires that have destroyed thousands of homes and business structures, taken lives, ripped apart families, people fleeing for their lives from Latin America. It’s a terrible reality that faces so many millions of people on the face of the earth, starvation, ethnic cleansing (better known as mass killings), and thousands of refugees that have nowhere to call home. And, regardless of what your politics are, there are thousands of refugees and asylum seekers on the border, and in Tijuana and other cities that share a border with the United States.
The church is a vehicle to assist people in times of desperate need, and if not then we fall short of doing the kind of work that Jesus has asked us to do in the gospels. There are several churches in our diocese that are putting feet to their faith. Good Samaritan Church in San Diego has volunteered to offer their church as a place to drop off emergency supplies both for those in San Diego County, and because we are not allowed to take supplies into Tijuana, they have made arrangements with the Red Cross and other multinational non-profits to make sure supplies get to where they need to be. If you want to be a part of this work, please let us know.
The church is called to be a beacon of hope, a place of refuge, and a place of solace from the chaos of this world. The church is a place to find community. The church is a place to worship, unmaligned by outside forces. The church is a place to find comfort for your soul, to find rest from a world that never slows down. “Stop the world and let me off, I don’t want to live here anymore”.
We have a message to share with the world. That message is this: “God loves you and we love you, and we have hope in Jesus Christ”. We have a promise of peace and a presence that is so deep and pure that nothing is this world can compare with that. We are a big spiritual family, and the Episcopal Church is just one strand of that family. We are family with multiple faith traditions, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, Disciples of Christ, Baptist and Non-denominational. We are all a part of this great big universal thing called the Church of Jesus Christ.
We know terrible things are happening in this world. In that tumult, in that chaos, there is a stabilizing factor in the air, and it’s called the presence and peace of the living God. It never changes. It reminds me of that old gospel hymn: “All may change, but Jesus never, glory to His name”.
If you haven’t heard anything in this sermon, that you can remember, please remember this: “The Church will be here as a beacon of Hope, a place to find healing, comfort and refuge, and we will be here throughout the ages to come. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Maranatha.
The Reverend Dr. David Madsen
First Sunday of Advent
December 2, 2018