Skip to comments."Advent Is Worth the Wait" (Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, on Isaiah 64, 1 Cor. 1, Mark 11)
Posted on 11/26/2011 9:24:29 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
Advent Is Worth the Wait (Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10)
We dont like to wait, do we? I mean, we Americans. And especially when it comes to Christmas. Wait till the night of December 24 to start celebrating Christmas? No way! So the Christmas catalogues started coming--when, the day after Labor Day? Then came the Christmas movies: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas came out November 4. The Christmas radio stations: Santa Baby was Rockin around the Christmas Tree already a couple of weeks ago. And the TV specials: Christmas in Rockefeller Center is this Tuesday. Apparently, Rockefeller Center is in a time zone 26 days ahead of the calendar.
And then theres the Christmas shopping. Oh, the shopping! Cant wait to get going on that! Black Friday specials! Gotta line up and camp out for the doorbusters at midnight! Cant wait for that deal on the Xbox video game console! Gotta have it!
Theres this rush, this cant-wait attitude toward Christmas--the worlds Christmas, at least. But it has also crept into the church, which ought to know better, since we have the true Christmas to celebrate. Why, I even heard of a church that had its Reason for the Season event on November 12! How ironic is that? Reason for the Season, yet they have it six weeks before the Christmas season begins!
By the way, the churchs Christmas, which is the real Christmas, since its about the birth of Christ, begins on the night of December 24 and goes for twelve days--the Twelve Days of Christmas--up until Epiphany on January 6. For most Americans, though, the whole shootin match is over by the morning of December 26. The trees get tossed out, and the radio stations stop playing Christmas music, just as the real Christmas season gets going. Oh well.
Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year. We cant wait for it. And so--problem--what to do with Advent? You see, Advent is all about waiting, and we dont like to wait. Well, we could do like most people and ignore it, pretend it doesnt exist. But then we would be missing out on something, something that God has for us during this season that begins today. So today I am here to tell you, Advent Is Worth the Wait.
Advent is all about waiting. Its a time of waiting, a whole season of waiting. But its not an empty waiting, like were supposed to spend it just twiddling our thumbs. No, the waiting we do is an active, thoughtful preparation. Advent is a season of preparing, which involves being attentive to what were doing while we wait and what it is--and who it is--were waiting for.
Advent is about waiting. You can see it in our lessons for today. In the reading from Isaiah, the prophet cries out to the Lord, Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down! He wants the Lord to make his name known to his adversaries, that the nations might tremble at his presence. But that visitation to bring judgment upon the enemies of Gods people--that doesnt happen right away. The people have to wait. But the prophet also realizes that the Lord is a God who acts for those who wait for him. Faith--and patience--is called for. The Lord will act, in due time. He will deliver his people from their adversaries.
It is probably a good thing that the Lord doesnt rend the heavens and come down right away upon those who sin against him, because that would mean we would be toast. Behold, the prophet prays, a prayer of confession, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you.
We too have been in our sins a long time, havent we? And shall we be saved? Its a good thing the Lord is patient with us, otherwise we would not be saved. Our own righteousness, if we were to hang it out on the clothesline, is like dirty laundry. Not very pure. And like November leaves falling off the trees, we dry up and fall to the ground. Even us religious people aint all that.
We are left, then, to the Lords mercy, which is what Isaiah prays for: But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.
Advent, a time for prayerful, penitential reflection, enables us to take a good look at ourselves and to see our polluted garments, our dried-up-leaf status. We are left with nothing but to plead the Lords mercy--which is exactly where the Lord wants us to be. These weeks of waiting help us to do that. Thats why Advent is worth the wait.
Lets go to the Epistle, the reading from 1 Corinthians. This too is about waiting. As you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul says. See, we Christians have to wait for the Second Coming of Christ. And if they thought they had to wait way back in the first century, how much longer has the church had to wait since then, as now we are into the twenty-first century? How long, O Lord, how long? How much longer is this madness going to go on until Christ comes again and straightens everything out? Waiting for that day, while the world spins madly about us like some Black Friday shopping frenzy, and we get caught in the vortex, and we are in danger of getting sucked into the worlds value system and maybe lose our faith--this waiting for Christ to return could be dangerous, dangerous to our spiritual health.
But what does Paul say? I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus. Ah, there is the grace of God that has been given to us! Gods unmerited favor, gifts beyond what we deserve. There is our foundation. And it is Gods grace in Christ Jesus. You cant beat that. This is the ultimate grace, the ultimate gift. Gods gift of his own Son to suffer and die for our sins, which Christ did on the cross, so that your sins are forgiven, your guilt is atoned for.
This grace enables our waiting. Paul goes on: as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is encouragement to sustain our waiting. If God has gone to the trouble of sending Christ in the first place, to make the ultimate sacrifice for your sins and to purchase your salvation, will he not also give you the grace you need to make it to the finish line? Yes, he will! Christ himself will sustain you. He will strengthen your drooping knees and your sagging spirit. He will guard and protect you so that you not fall into sin and lose your faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ is committed to seeing us through. It is in his strength that we wait. Advent serves as a miniature of our whole life of waiting. It gives us practice in it. And so again, Advent is worth the wait.
Then we come to the Holy Gospel for today. Jesus entering Jerusalem. We always get this Palm Sunday account on the First Sunday in Advent. Because its about Jesus coming as King--the word Advent means coming--and the people of God greeting their King accordingly: Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!
The coming kingdom of our father David! Except it came 1,000 years after David! Again with the waiting! But I tell you, it was worth the wait. Jesus the Messiah came into Jerusalem in order to win our salvation. It came on a truly Black Friday, the Friday when the sky turned black and Gods own Son was left forsaken by his Father, as Jesus suffered the due penalty for our sins. But it took his death to put us in the black, forever. The riches of Christs righteousness have been credited to our account, and that is worth its weight in gold.
So Advent is a season of waiting. Weve seen it today, and we will see it in the weeks to come: John the Baptist serving as the warm-up act, if you will, getting the crowd ready for the main attraction about to come on the stage. John calling us to make straight the way of the Lord, as we wait for him to come. Mary herself had to wait, nine months from the time of the annunciation to the time of the birth. Christmas did not come without some waiting.
Friends, today I am encouraging you to take advantage of this season of waiting. God has a work to do in you this Advent. Dont skip right over it, in a frenzy to rush onto Christmas. Let Advent be Advent first. I know youve got the world and the culture working against you. But let Advent be Advent. Theres some good stuff in store for you this season: Some reflective repentance. Some quiet prayer, away from the madness. Take some time for that. Preparation, to welcome your Lord appropriately, at Christmas and at his Second Coming. Patience, waiting patiently for the Lord to act, in his own time and in his own way, knowing that it is all for our best. Thats what Advent is about. And it is worth the wait.
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence--
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil--
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Be not so terribly angry, O LORD,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (ESV)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge--even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you--so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Mark 11:1-10 (ESV)
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, Why are you doing this? say, The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately. And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, What are you doing, untying the colt? And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!
I’m adding another Amen with a Catholic accent.
I’m adding another Amen with a Catholic accent.