Isaiah 2: 1-5
Romans 13: 11-14
Matthew 24: 36-44
It’s coming. You can’t stop it. You can’t slow it. You can’t avoid it. You can’t escape it. It’s coming and it will catch you up and engulf you & there is nothing you can do about it.
No, for once I’m not ranting about the impending celebration of Christmas: I’m talking about the love of God, the presence of God, the reign or kingdom of God.
Advent Sunday is about the start of the season when we get ready for what God does at Christmas.
It is about shifting our attention away from ourselves and from human activity and looking for what God is doing and will do. If there is a pithy Advent message today, it is stop trying so hard and doing so much and simply accept that God is coming to you – nothing is required of you except to accept it!
I’m reminded of the hoary old preacher’s story fo the 5 year old boy who got lost out in the forest near his home. As ot grew darker and darker and as the temperature and then the snow started to fall, his parents grew wild with worry and began searching frantically, each going in a different direction to cover the ground more quickly. Then the boy’s father spotted him, huddled under a bush, wrapped up tightly in his thick coat, fast asleep. As the father lifted him up the boy opened his bleary eyes and said ‘Daddy, at last I’ve found you!’.
We are no more capable of finding God than that boy was of finding his father – and we need to remember at Advent, that it is God who does the travelling – God comes to us – we reflect on God’s activity not our own.
So we hear from Isaiah of a time when God’s place, God’s mountain, will be the highest and greatest in the world – when all people will be drawn to God and when there will be absolute peace – when swords will be hammered into ploughshares. This was a wonderful promise for the people of God of the first Isaiah’s time: the kingdom of Israel has been split into two and both the kingdom of Israel, in the north and the kingdom of Judah, in the south were facing threats from neighbouring kingdoms. War was a fact of life for the people to whom Isaiah was prophesying, and they must have longed for the kind of peace, brought by God, that he promises.
The letter to the Romans looks forward to a time of salvation for all – when the day – the day of the lord – will finally come and all will be light. Although the church at Rome knows they live in a time of darkness, when God’s light has not yet fully dawned, they are told to be ready, and told to put on the armour of light, to be children of light and followers of Christ, even in the darkness that surrounds them.
And Jesus warns his followers that they do not know when the end of time will come, but that it will come unexpectedly and suddenly.
Immediately following this teaching, Jesus tells the parables of the wise & foolish virgins, and of the sheep and the goats – stories of being ready, and of being judged at the end of time.
God will come; life as we know it will change forever; there is nothing we can do except wait for God’s time.
But what are we meant to do with these promises?
They sound a bit like empty promises – ‘a time of great peace & salvation’ – you don’t see much sign of that happening anytime soon, do you? Maybe these prophets got it wrong – maybe God has given up on his world, after all.
Or maybe these promises make us feel that there really isn’t anything we can do except to wait, passively, for God to act. I said that Advent was about God coming to us – so let’s wait & see what God is going to do.
But of course we are not waiting in a vacuum for God to act – we are approaching Christmas and remembering that God has come into the world.
God has come – we don’t need to search or seek or strive. Advent means God is coming to us – whether we like it or not.
And Jesus Christ came to announce that ‘ the kingdom of God is among you’ – we may not be able to see a world of perfect peace yet. But we can live as those who belong to the kingdom, because we know God is here already, that the reign of God has begun, even if God’s rule is not yet complete.
God’s rule of the whole world is not complete, and the timing of that is God’s and not ours, but we can try to make God’s rule more and more complete in our own lives.
Both Isaiah and the letter to the Romans challenge us to walk already as people of the light. Advent is here – God is coming – so live as those who are already people of light and be ready to celebrate the God who in Jesus comes to us and dwells among us and will never leave us. Thanks be to God. Amen.