December 2, 2012

The Sermon for the First Sunday of Advent

Karin I. Liebster, Associate Pastor
Christ the King Lutheran Church
Houston, Texas 


Readings (NRSV) and Psalm (ELW):
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!
Welcome to the first Sunday of Advent, a new church year. Once again, dear congregation, we enter the stage on which the drama of faith unfolds. We will read from the gospel of Luke and the gospel of John in the course of the year. The rhythm of Sundays and holidays in which the drama of faith progresses, begins anew with the expectation of the savior of the world. “Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.” “Come, Lord Jesus,” we pray.
When we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” it never is just an innocent, friendly invitation for Jesus to bless us with his presence, but it is always full of power, drawing us back into the drama of his coming, into the reality of God’s rule of peace on earth.The stage we enter today on this first Sunday of the year is rather dramatic. It is all about coming. Raising our anticipation. 

Remember a time of anticipation in your life. Maybe you needed to start over – in your business, in education, in relationship. Remember the excitement when the anticipated change was taking place, the different way of breathing, the lighter weight your body seemed to have, the ease by which things were finally coming together; and the future was opened, lay there before you in plain sight. Probably some nervousness mixed in, probing and wondering if what you saw promised would hold.

Or remember how it was in childhood. Your favorite aunt or uncle or grandparents were announced, and all we could do as children was wait, wait for the coming to happen. During the days and hours of impatient waiting memories of past visits and the excitement of coming would let fantasies grow which easily outsized what in the end really took place.

Coming. Advent.
In the first reading today God promises new days which will be coming for Judah and Israel. Days of justice, secure life. A king who is just; the name of Jerusalem equaling righteousness. Finally.

Then Paul. In the beginning of his theological writing like to the Thessalonians he clearly lives in intense anticipation of the coming, the second coming “of our Lord Jesus with all the saints,” when all will rise from their graves. In later years his intense anticipation and fervent prayer is no less but he becomes imprecise about the second coming. He calls Christ the first fruit of the resurrection, Christ who has come and is present among the faithful in word and sacrament.  

Jesus teaches his disciples about the dramatic coming of the Son of Man, the redeemer, and the coming of the kingdom of God. Anticipation is mixed in with questions whether those experiencing the coming will come out of it at the other end unscathed. Sun, moon, the stars are changing, the waters in the caverns of the earth roaring.  

Is Jesus foreseeing global warming here or ecological disasters of our times? Hardly. Those changes and how we deal with them belong in the department of creation care and our stewardship of God’s good creation. – Is Jesus telling us to stand up and raise our heads because December 21 is approaching and with it the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar? Nope.  

The purpose and goal of the dramatic apocalyptic visions and concepts which abound in the New Testament is consolation of the faithful, consolation for all who are experiencing signs and destruction, wars and disasters, the groaning of people, nations, and the created world.  

Our consolation is: God is coming. Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come! Anticipation and consolation become one and the same. Jesus gives us the beautiful image of the fig tree and all the trees: “As soon as they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.” The children begin to skip in the spring air, people take their winter coats and sweaters off and get ready to install the HVAC from