December 2, 2018

Days of Hope Just Ahead

Passage: Luke 21: 25 - 36

“Days of Hope Just Ahead”
Jeremiah 33: 14 – 16
Luke 21: 25 -36
1st Sunday Advent
Rev. L. Bryan McClain

One of the things I dread in preparing for Advent is this first week. Precisely I dread having come up with a sermon, especially as it pertains to this passage from Luke’s Gospel; where it speaks of the signs in the sun and moon and stars, distress among the nations but also in nature.
I have dreaded it in the past because although the nations are always a bit distressed and there is always a degree of craziness in the world, it usually seems to be somewhat contained. I honestly can’t say I feel that way this year.
As far as nature and the cosmos is concerned, it is the same thing. Though we are seeing things that we have always seen before like powerful hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tornados, I cannot recall seeing them happening one on top of the other like we have seen in this past year. Nor have we seen them having increased in both in their size and power and destructive force.
In the past I have dreaded this because we come to this time of year ending on a good note and then we hit the first week of Advent and it seems like it has to start at least liturgically speaking, all of a sudden, I have to shift gears mentally and spiritually. I am thinking to myself, Why? After all we are getting ready to celebrate the birth of “Sweet Baby Jesus” as Ricky Bobby played by Will Ferrell would say in the movie “Talladega Nights”.
If ever there was a year to point to this scripture passage that really refers us back to hear the prophets of old, it is this year. But truly that is the whole reason why God sends “Sweet Baby Jesus.” It is to grow up and confront for our sake the evil nature of this world. IT is not to remove us from the danger and perils of what happens but it is to assure us of God’s abiding presence in the midst of whatever we may be facing.
I was struck this past week, as I fretted over what I might say today and looking for a book that our Sunday School class might study. Anne reminded me that we purchased two sets of books a year ago. Well we finished the first one actually about a month ago. And I wasn’t sure if the class wanted to do another Advent study, but they didn’t seem to mind so long as it doesn’t take a whole year to do it. Anyway, I found the book and I was struck by what the introduction said. Truly it takes a different approach to Advent. And it is what advent is really all about.
It is preparing for good news in the midst of darkness, trouble, despair. Listen to what the introduction to the Study of Underdogs and Outsiders: “Advent reminds us year after year that the Savior of the world did not come into perfect families, filled with perfect people, who did not need saving to begin with. He came to families like yours and mine; families with immediate wounds and generational scars; families with a pedigree that only God could love. And then as if that wasn’t enough, there was the earthquake that hit Alaska as a 7.0 on the Richter Scale.
Immediately the passage from Luke made sense to me. This is why we begin here with cosmic chaos and impending natural disasters, to say nothing of a world full of people coming unhinged. It is the kind of world Jesus came to save.
The truth is we need someone like Jesus, even those of us who think we have always had him. Because if truth be told, our lives aren’t so perfect after all.
Jesus did not come looking for perfection, he came to call us to faithfulness. Faithfulness in trusting that God will deliver us from the perils in our lives whether it is natural disasters, earth shattering tragedies, political or financial corruption or failures. But also form the more personal disasters that strike closer to home like brokenness in our families dealing with addiction, dysfunction, sickness like cancer, heart disease, chromes disease, and a multitude of others that we are just now hearing of for the first time. Or other things like hunger, loss of jobs, disproportionate global wealth.
In order to confront this cataclysmic reality of sin and chaos in our world and in our lives, we are going to need supernatural help. Not like Superman or Batman who mythically fight the bad guy and stand tall in the sunset.
But like what God sends to us in an infant child who will grow up to shine the light of hope into our darkness by being the light of God that never goes down.
The signs that we are seeing, they are signs of dangerous times ahead. But our world has faced dangerous times before, maybe even some worse than what we are seeing in our lifetime.
But the point is that we can either try to face them by ourselves with little to no hope at all, or we can look at it all and know that God who created this world as well as you and me, and has not left us without the hope of salvation.
That hope is to believe in the one God has sent to help us, to trust in his name and in his plan. To back away from returning evil for evil and seek to do more good for others in peril.
People like you, or your neighbor, people like the family we will be doing our best to help in the coming year.
Now is not the time to lose hope. Now is the time have even more hope than ever before. So be on guard, don’t let your hearts get heavy and weighed down with the worries of this life, instead lift up your heads and pray that you will find the strength to escape all these things. You can escape them by living faithfully in Jesus love. For this is the hope of the World and it lies just head.