Invitation to Advent Sermon

Invitation to Advent. Series A. 11.27.2022. Rev. Rodriguez 1

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Protect us by your strength and save Us from the threatening dangers of our sins, for you live and reign with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

With this ancient collect of our tradition, I welcome you to the season of anticipation. The kind of anticipation one has after hearing that your beloved daughter, wife, mother or relative is in labor. When shall the child be born? About that day and hour, the only thing we know is that we do not know. Advent grants us the opportunity to internalize a kind of vigilance we have when protecting our homes, apartments or person from those who would wish us or do us harm. Yet, the Advent we intend to keep sets our hearts and minds to receive God’s perfect reign on earth. To this end, I too urge you to keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Unexpected and mysterious is the arrival of God’s reign in our hearts.

There’s a story by Tomie DePaola. You might not know his name but perhaps you might know one of his more than two-hundred and sixty children’s books, like Strega Nona. The story is entitled, “The Night of Las Posadas,” set in Santa Fe, NM and it deals with this theme of the unexpected arrival of God’s reign:

“Shivering and sweating, Sister Angie slept soundly underneath her covers, while the village commenced the annual Las Posadas celebration. For weeks, Sister Angie had been instrumental in coordinating the musicians, the actors, and the parish in this production. She even recruited her niece, Lupe, and her niece’s husband, Roberto, to play the parts of Mary and Joseph. Outside, while Sister Angie was resting, Roberto and Lupe ran into the family Chevy, fully dressed, hoping that this unexpected snag in the plans would not delay their arrival much. What seemed like a simple drive, turned out to be a White Christmas indeed. Snow covered most of the road, impeding their passage. What were they to do? Meanwhile as the musicians and the singers finished their warm-ups, Father Vasquez began to worry. Where is Mary and Joseph? Just then, a Man and a young woman on a donkey drew near to the priest claiming to be friends of Angie, sent to fill in for the young couple. Thanks be to God! Now, the celebration could start.

So, the procession began with antiphons, children play-acting as the inn-keepers, denying shelter to the procession three-times before welcoming the entire parish into the church courtyard. There at the center was the manager scene all-set and ready for a tableau vivant. As the parish was settling in, Father Vasquez wanted to personally thank these two friends of Sister Angie. But, they were nowhere to be found. Just then, Sister Angie awoke from her slumber with a sudden urge to visit the Holy Family chapel at the church. Putting on her Huipil, she walked to the parish with a candle in hand, intending to offer it in prayer. As she entered the chapel, the dim light of this sacred space filled Sister Angie with a sensation she knew all too well. Kneeling down in one of the pews closest to the door, she prayed, “Oh Maria and Jose, my heart will always be open to you so that the Holy Child will have a place to be born.” As she her eyes adjusted to the chapel, Sister Angie beheld an unbelievable sight. The statues of Mary and Joseph were covered in a thick layer of snow, as if they had been outside for several hours.” How shall we greet the Lord if we know not when even his parents will make an appearance in our lives? Herein lies the blessing of this season.

Advent grants us the ability to catch glimpses of God-with-us-and-all-around-us. Particularly at the start of this new lectionary cycle, Year A, we hear how Isaiah depicts the appearance of God for a people near and eventually in exile.

– God is the priest that instructs, the prophet that speaks the word (First Advent. Isa 2:3b), the arbiter for many people (2:4a).

– God pours himself out upon his anointed who shall decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Second Advent. 11:4b). When we see the wolf [living] with the lamb, there is God-with-us.

– God promises to come to save us so that we may have everlasting joy…sorrow and sighing shall flee away (Third Advent. Isa 35:4c, 10a).

– Yet the greatest, and most unexpected, ways that we see God is through the womb of a young woman. She, Mary, will be with child, bear a son, and shall name him God-with-us (Fourth Advent. Isa 7:14).

For in him, we see, as St. Romanos the Melodist wrote in his Christmas Meditation, “as a little Child, the God before the ages.”

Poor. Oppressed. Vulnerable. How unexpected it was that the Maker of the Universe became like us in every way?! With anxieties, sorrows, hungers, yearning, joys, laughter, limitations, family, friends. He so identifies with us that he was incarnate by the Virgin Mary and the Holy Spirit. He made women’s bodies precisely the place where his glory dwells. Here, within our bodies, God-with-us brings a reign where neither shall we learn war any more (Isa 2:4b). Instead, we light candles, open hearts, allow for the Holy Child to have a place to be born.

The traditions of advent allow for us to be one with the God-who-is-with-us-and-for-us, Jesus Christ. Be it Creches or Trees. Las Posadas, Carols or the O’ Antiphons. Even the celebrations of Saints Nicholas, Ambrose, Lucia and La Virgen de Guadalupe. May our prayer then through these Festivities direct our hearts to anticipate God-with-us, saying:

“Stir up your power, O Lord, and Come. Amen.”