AT THAT TIME OF WAITING
An Advent Sunday Sermon by Pastor Chico Martin
Lections: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44
At that time of waiting…hoping…looking
In the all-at-once of the Great Time …
of origins, of preparation
Alive in an in-between time, between nothingness and eternity,
Between darkness and light,
Between the Advent and the Second Coming of the Lord of lords,
the Child King and The Ancient One;
we live in a time of pregnancy, in the fullness of time,
and we live in a finished time, a redeemed time, when all future things have been
accomplished, and already are, complete.
We live in our youth and old age, in health and sickness,
given in birth and taken by death
in the one moment when the gates of heaven –the sky of lights –open to receive us.
The judgments we have made, the judgment we lived under, exposed,
as we were once, in the motionless uplifting, for love
is ubiquitous, and we are free to choose.
We first choose to trust.
At that time of waiting, our New Year begins
with the promise of a marvel and the encouragement to keep awake:
“for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Our longing can be great. “But this understand:
if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night
the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake
and would not have let his house be broken into.
Therefore, you also must be ready,
for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
This is the hour when the breath expires, when the person Jesus saves
one tortured thief and is silent with another;
for the one steals from him, and is forgiven,
while the other steals from you and I, yet shows no remorse.
A day, a week, a season and a year, a lifetime, even, passes
through a round of images,
beginning at its end: a meditation of our soul.
Last week the Christ was stretched on his cross between two thieves
on the hill called Golgotha, “the Place of the Skull.”
This week he makes his approach in the heart, “the Soul’s place,”
where “he is about to arrive.” The soul is lit, as brightly as a full moon,
and as warm with its welcome as the smells from a kitchen
at the Thanksgiving feast.
Or the soul is desolate, bereft of light, as the night sky on a new moon.
In the in-between – the passage of this earthly life – we move back and forth
between the two extremes of dark and light, of loss and of deliverance.
For us who shouted, “Crucify him,” a child is born, and we adore him.
Making the round of images, we purify our soul. We are wound up tightly,
then we loosen up a bit. An angel hovers at our shoulder,
and greets us with its news: our Lord has chosen for us honor.
Vocation begins with a visit, hospitality, then nativity.
We present ourselves to the Lord, in the Temple of our Soul,
where the elder Simeon abides
in the shadow of centuries, nursing expectations we fulfill.
A place is found for you and I, in the daily cycle of prayers,
the smoke of incense, that clarifies our hearing
of God’s word and seeing of his presence.
In the moment of our death, the soul is delivered by light that burns off darkness.
We can be methodical about this poetry. At the end of the year, just yesterday,
were we well? Was our soul “lit-up” more brightly by the last year’s seasons?
Hopefully, we can answer yes.
And more to the point, we ask, what can we do this year
so that next year we may again answer yes? What can we do to encourage
spaciousness in the house of our soul?
“Before the dawning day,
Let sin’s dark deeds be gone;
The old life all be put away,
The new life all put on.”[i]
The temple of the soul is roofed in the heart of the believer;
its stones are the muscles that pump our blood and breath.
Once upon a time, God was present in the ark, and at another,
the ark was present in the Temple, and the Temple was built in Jerusalem;
but nothing of that temple has survived. We are the remnant
people who built that temple.
Simeon waits within each of us, in the skeletal columns, nearby
the courtyard where the rabbi later taught.
At the arrival of the New Year, we petition God for grace to “cast away
the works of darkness” and “put on the armor of light.”
The great humility of the Advent
moves through mortality like a hot rod, “that on the last day,” when the Son of Man
fulfills the Advent, “in his glorious majesty,” we may rise
– In the all-at-once of the Great Time –
to the life immortal.
On this New Year, we consecrate ourselves
to behave righteously, without scandal, as if already alive in the light;
forewarned to avoid the happy occasions of intoxication stealing into darkness,
we make no provisions for the worldly life’s attachment to desire.
How unfamiliar is the soul, confronted by desire and righteousness.
Often we behave as if either/or conditions form the judgment
of “the living and the dead.”
The pictures we evoke from the life of Jesus suggest a different story.
The passage of this mortal life, its round of images, refines us in its seasons.
The condition of our soul changes;
attaining the fullness of the commandments, which is love,
its brightness seems to oscillate along a continuum of light and darkness.
End times fulfill the promise of Incarnation,
as Advent fulfills the promise of vocation.
The Psalmist prays, “Make me to know
your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths,”
and the New Year asks us to renew our commitment.
“Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise
are related to each other,
as are dawn and sunrise.
Both are promise and in fact the same promise.”
At that time of waiting…hoping…looking
In the all-at-once of the Great Time …of origins, of preparation
“precisely in the light of the coming of Christ”
we discover ourselves
in a time of pregnancy, in an expectant time,
alive in a future time, in the finished note,
laying hold “on the fulfilled promise’
“for whom and for what” we have been waiting.[ii]
[i] “The Advent of Our King,” The Lutheran Hymnal no. 68, quoted in Pfatteicher, p.32
[ii] Karl Barth, Christmas (1959), quoted by Justin Holcomb, “What Is Advent?”, http://justinholcomb.com/2012/11/30/what-is-advent/?utm_source=hootsuite
See also Josemaria Escriva, Christ Is Passing By.