Welcome to worship for the 1st Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2022! We’re starting a new church year, this time with our focus on the gospel according to Matthew, and we’re looking forward to having new insights on this take on the life of Jesus!
The bulletin for this service can be found here. Because we’re in a new season, we will be using a different setting, this time it’s Marty Haugen’s Tree of Life. Hopefully you’re familiar enough with it that you won’t need the music in front of you (because we can’t duplicate it for you in the bulletin like we did with the last new setting). But the bulletin will have the rest of the information on the service that you’ll need, like the words and order of worship, the hymn numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. The words that you need to know will also be on your screen, and the sermon is on this page below the worship video.
If you would like to enhance your worship experience online, you can light a candle at the beginning of the service and then extinguish it at the end of the service with the altar candles after the sending hymn. And if you want to participate in communion, you can have something small to eat and drink and you can consume them after the communion hymns along with our pastor. But of course, you welcome to do whatever is most comfortable and meaningful for you.
May God’s unending presence in your life be apparent to you and strengthen you in hope, this day and always!
Hello dear viewer, we apologize again for running into technical difficulties again, while the video was captured just fine aside from a glitch in the beginning of worship, the sound wasn’t capture at all so we are left with another mute video. But please feel free to read the sermon below or go through the entire service from the bulletin linked above. Again, we apologize for this inconvenience.
God of every nation, let your Word ring out from the mountains and your Spirit shine forth in the earth, so that all may hear your teaching and see you present in all that we do, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
So anyone get any “Black Friday” shopping done? I say “Black Friday” in quotes like that because it isn’t really “Black Friday” as much as it’s “Black All Week”, am I right? I mean really, I don’t think I saw any Friday only deals, but all retailers that I looked at (or care about) started their sales as early as the Sunday or Monday before the actual Black Friday.
So early are these sales that my buddy actually ordered a dishwasher on a Black Friday sale, and the darned thing was slated to arrive on Wednesday afternoon. Not this coming Wednesday afternoon, mind you, which is what you might think for something bought on a Black Friday sale, but last Wednesday. You know, the Wednesday that happened 2 days before the actual Black Friday. I know, mind blown. It’s like we’re time travellers now.
Anyway, that isn’t the point of the story. My friend, like any one of us expecting a new and exciting major appliance, was a bit eager for this delivery. So you can imagine the annoyance he felt when the delivery window that they gave him was like 3 hours long. And then during that 3-hour window, they went ahead and moved it on him for 2 hours later. Thankfully my friend works from home so he didn’t really have to take time off for this, but still, he wasn’t a happy camper.
What probably made it worse for my friend is that his home office faces out toward the street, so he could see the delivery truck as it pulls up. That’s a whole different level of torture right there, as I’m sure he couldn’t help but stare out the window at the street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the truck as it rolls in. But the waiting paid off as just as the loose delivery window was about to end, a Trail branded truck pulls up and parks right across the street from his house. The dishwasher was finally here. He waits for about 10 minutes but no one even leaves the truck. And just as he’s about to go outside to see what’s going on, he gets another text from the delivery company saying that his delivery is still delayed and won’t be there for another 10 minutes. What is even happening here?
“About that day and hour no one knows.” Jesus’ words about his impending return hit different when we’re talking about waiting for deliveries. While we’re familiar with Jesus’ words here, and we have probably know about and heard of all the theories and opinions of what’s to come, I don’t think anyone is more anxious about Jesus’ coming as they are about their expected parcels. Nor is anyone more frustrated when Jesus doesn’t show up than they are when Amazon doesn’t. And don’t even get me started on Canada Post…
I’m not saying that we should be frustrated with Jesus, but I do want to talk about what it means to be prepared for this unexpected hour. Are we to be just standing there waiting, looking out the window every few minutes, impatiently tapping our foot on the floor with a furrowed brow? Are we to be checking our watches and perhaps learn to read and interpret the signs of when it’s supposed happen? Are we to thump our bibles against our chest, read every word forward and back, and decipher the code of when Jesus is supposed to show up?
I think we all might know some people who actually do these sorts of things, and honestly there isn’t anything wrong with it. I’m not going to tell people to stop checking their Jesus clocks and making end time predictions. I’m not going to look down on the so-called prophets and their crystal balls of rapture and Armageddon. I’m not even going to talk about them in my sermons… oh wait.
But what I am going to say is that preparation for Jesus’ arrival isn’t the same as waiting for our deliveries. Our being ready for Jesus isn’t the same as being ready to answer the door when that bell rings before the delivery person just leaves your stuff there as porch pirate bait. Our hope and expectation of the Messiah in our midst, the presence of Lord, God with us, isn’t the same as looking out the window hoping for a glimpse of a delivery truck in the distance.
So the funny thing about my friend’s delivery is that we were all guessing as to why he can literally see the truck was just sitting there outside but they claimed that it wouldn’t be there for another 10 minutes. Like maybe the driver was taking their lunch break in the truck, maybe the dispatcher on break and needs to clear the delivery before they could even take it off the truck, or maybe they need to double and triple check the address, you know just in case. None of our theories made any sense and really, it’s just a quick delivery so all they have to do is wheel the dishwasher over and be done with it. But as we were talking about it, another truck, identical to the first pulls in and parks directly in front of his house. Turns out that first truck was actually there delivering to another house on their street, and it just happened they were there at roughly the same time. And then an Amazon delivery van showed up and we expecting an all-out turf war, but I guess that’s a story for another day.
“Beware of the false prophets…” and false delivery trucks apparently. My friend was so sure that this appliance delivery company was completely bonkers from this experience, and while he was relaying it to us we also questioned their customer service, their business practices, even their competence. We read the signs and we made assumptions. We interpreted the situation and jumped to conclusions. We sized up the situation and didn’t even think that we could be wrong, until we actually ended up being totally wrong.
This is the danger of “over preparing” for this coming of Christ. What happens if we read the signs of the end times but we are incorrect? What happens if we are so certain of our assumptions of the world but they are proven to be untrue? What happens if we interpret our situations and we draw life lessons from them but we are just wrong?
Again, I’m not telling anyone to stop making these predictions or thinking of these things, but I’m saying that maybe we can shift our focus. Maybe we can be humbled a bit by Jesus himself saying that about these things “no one knows”. Maybe instead of looking forward at when Jesus will come back, we can look to see how Jesus is here now.
I mean, that’s the promise of Advent, isn’t it? God with us? Not God will be with us or God with us soon or even God will be with us after all the signs and interpretations come to pass, but God with us. Here. Now. Always.
So instead of looking ahead in anxiety of a tumultuous return of Christ, I think I’d rather be encouraged and live in hope of Christ present here and now. Instead of trying to read the signs of what might or might not happen in our lifetime, I’d prefer to see and recognise the ways that Jesus is with us now. Instead of being afraid of whether or not we are prepared enough for what is to come, I’d prefer to welcome Jesus in our midst now, leading us, encouraging us, and holding us in grace and love, lifting us up out of our brokenness and pain, and bringing us to live in community with each other and all the saints.
See to me, what is happening now is more important than what might happen in the future. How we actually treat each other now is more meaningful than how we intend to treat each other later on. How we see Christ in the world now, working in an around our lives and bringing hope to all people, is much more encouraging and humbling than how we might interpret his coming possibly could be.
The good news is that Jesus is with us. He came in the flesh and remains in the Spirit. His life and teachings ring true through us and in spite of us. His presence is among us in this community, through our relationships, and in the bread and wine. This is the promise of this season of Advent, this is the grace shown to us by a benevolent God, this is the hope that we all cling to, knowing that God with us joins us all together in salvation.
So as we embark in this season of Advent, this season of hope and looking forward, may we look at the world and our community in the here and now and see just how Christ is present among us, in our midst, encouraging us and strengthening us to graciously love with peace and joy for the sake of God’s gospel for us all. Thanks be to God. Amen.