1st Sunday in Advent
December 2, 2012
Luke 11: 1-13 and Thessalonians 5: 12-24
Imagine you are building the highway – preparing the way for Jesus to come to Prineville. Well, imagine that Highway 126 didn’t already run right through town. What would you need to do it?
First you’d need a plan. You’d need to know the lay of the land and where the best place is to lay out a highway. You’d imagine where the flat places are and where you’d need to carve out the unevenness. You’d have to figure out how much work it would take to dig it out and smooth it out, how you would pave it, and how much the materials would cost to make it.
Once you had a plan, you’d be able to begin. Could you do it alone? Who would help you? How long would it take to finish?
In a lot of ways, we do this every year at this time. The season of Advent gives us a chance to get ready for Jesus to come. Our blue altar and Advent wreath tell us about waiting and expecting and getting ready.
We don’t actually need to build a highway for Jesus. Jesus already built a highway to us. And so, in this season, we walk that path to Bethlehem to remember how God changed the world by coming into it. What do we need to carry us toward that Baby? What is our plan to get there and be ready for what God will give us this year?
This morning’s readings give us a plan. In his letter to the Christians in Thessaloniki, Paul offers a plan for us to get ready to meet God in the manger. His plan is one that opens our eyes to see God already with us, with each other and with a world full of people who need love and care. Paul suggests that the people respect their pastors and teachers; that people live in peace with each other and not argue among themselves. He encourages hard work and patience, looking always for the good in people and events instead of being picky and complaining. Rejoice, he says, pray all the time, and give thanks no matter what, because that is what God intended life to be like for you. It will make you happy and make God happy, too. Read the Bible and let the stories of God’s people encourage you, as the Holy Spirit teaches you. Be on your best behavior, using your best judgment about what is good for you and for other people. Then God will keep you safe and you will be at peace until Jesus comes back. Never doubt that God can do it, he promises.
When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he includes a prayer for God’s kingdom to come on earth. And then he tells us what that looks like: every day we have the food and everything else we need to live comfortably. Our sins are forgiven and we are then able to forgive anyone who needs our forgiveness. And we pray that God will keep us safe from the evil that still is around in the world, so that when we are tested by losses or disappointment or real disaster, we will know that God is with us. Jesus’ story encourages us to ask God for everything that’s important to us, because God wants us to have everything that makes life sweet for us.
Here’s your roadmap, your plan for getting ready for Jesus to come at Christmas: Meet God, clear a time to sit down with God’s word in the Bible and let the words open your heart and mind. Pray, talk to God about what happens to you when that word starts you thinking or touches your heart. Rejoice, sing those wonderful songs that tell the story of God’s love in Jesus. Gather with your church family to celebrate. Be thankful, remember all the blessings of your everyday life and tell God how much you love those gifts. Give and forgive, learn how wonderful it can be to make someone else happy, and release the hurt and anger that keeps you imprisoned when you carry a grudge. God walks with you when you live like this. You won’t earn your way to heaven this way, that’s already been done for you. Jesus died and rose again bringing in a new world of freedom for you. Your sins, your weakness, your wandering have been forgiven already, and your life with God is secure forever. So now you can live joyfully and celebrate all the possibilities that this new life brings.
The reading from the Prophet Isaiah was written to a people who were in exile. They’d been gone from their promised homeland for 70 years. Parents and grandparents grieved for their descendants, afraid that they would never experience what it meant to be God’s homeland. But the prophet tells them that God is coming to set them free, to lead them like a shepherd into a safe place, carrying the babies and leading the mother sheep.
We are like that too. We are surrounded by frantic preparation, and everyone is trying to sell us stuff that is supposed to make us feel good. Stuff may make us feel good for a minute, but it just makes us want more stuff. Finding ourselves on a path with God, living in the peace and joy that only God can give is the way home for us. Each of us is invited here by God for something, to create something unique, a road, a path, a community that lives God’s love and God’s presence. What’s your plan in this season of anticipation? How will you pay attention to how God is busy in your life and in the world right now? If Jesus has already built a highway for us, will we let him take us on adventures we never expected? How are we as a community going to bear charity, forgiveness, kindness, and justice in our walk together? God is coming, whether we are ready or not. May we be prepared to receive the gifts of God’s coming.
According to the riches of God’s glory, may you be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and may Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.