Advent 1C – December 2, 2018

Grace mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
December is here. November is behind us. The Thanksgiving dinner leftovers are long gone. Some of our homes are already getting decorated for Christmas…the tree, the lights …. Here at St. John’s we are excited to see our Advent wreath, as today is the first weekend in Advent, the first week in the new church year. And while some of us are getting ready for Christmas by singing Christmas carols, like Silent Night where we put ourselves into the time when Jesus first came to us as a baby in a manager, today’s gospel reading is not about Jesus’ first coming but about Jesus’ second coming, when he comes again, to make everything right. A good Christmas carol for us today during this season of Advent might be Joy to the World as it was actually written not to celebrate Jesus’ arrival into our world 2000 years ago, but about our anticipation of when he comes again.
When I first met my husband in the late 80s he did not have a traditional 9-5 job, or sit at a desk, or work in manufacturing, or any number of jobs that we might find here in Chester County. He was a naval officer aboard a nuclear fast attack submarine. His job required that he spend a great deal of time aboard the boat, during the day while in port, overnight while on duty keeping watch, and of course, while on underways and on deployments. These would be times when the boat would be out to sea for weeks or months at a time. Regardless of the submarine’s location, either while at sea or in port at a dock, the submarine was never left unattended. Officers and crew continually kept watch, round the clock, vigilantly making sure that all systems were running fine. In fact, times in port might be no less grueling than time at sea.
All the time, drills were constantly run. Everyone needed to be prepared for countless situations that may arise: flood, fire, high carbon dioxide levels, not to mention all the external issues that could occur… On a submarine, the cost of being unprepared is high; everyone’s lives depend on being ready and being on guard for whatever could happen at any time.
Our Gospel reading today comes from Luke, and it, too, urges us to be prepared, to keep watch, to be on guard.
Here is a big difference between the Gospel’s warning to be alert and the submariners’ preparation: one is for what will happen and one is for what will hopefully never happen… a fire, a collision, a man overboard. In the Gospel reading, we are told that Jesus’ second coming will happen. And we are to be ready for it. We are to remain faithful in looking for the Lord’s return and keep being alert. It is especially during this season of Advent that we remember to look forward to Jesus’ coming and the hope that we have in him, to be on guard, and pray for the strength to be watchful in all seasons and for the strength to stand. We are not to be frightened but prepared.
This is a season of preparation, but it seems like it can also be a time of anxiety. As we wait, we may need to persevere with our health concerns, with money management issues. Maybe we are the parents of a teenager with issues that we don’t want to discuss publicly. Maybe we are the teenagers dealing with concerns that are really hard to navigate. Perhaps we have younger children that just wear us down, and we are tired and frustrated. Or possibly we are children and we really work hard, trying to figure out how to get things right.
Through all of this we are not to fear; at least, this is what we are supposed to do. But, maybe, the reality is that we just want to curl up under the blankets and stop.
The Gospel reading today reminds us that we don’t have to hide under the covers. We are to stand up, straighten ourselves, and look up, lifting our heads. We can have courage and not fear. We can make it! Jesus is our hope. Jesus will come to us in the future in great glory. We can lift our heads and not fear.
So Jesus will come to us in the future, and Jesus came to us in the past, as a baby, and Jesus also comes to us in the present when we receive communion.
Communion is an opportunity for us to come together as the body of Christ. And we remember. We remember Jesus’ death and resurrection. We remember that Jesus lives and will return. We remember that because of Jesus we can live forever in heaven, and we celebrate this. We come to communion having asked forgiveness of our sins and Jesus offers us that forgiveness. At communion, we receive Jesus.
And this weekend we have joining us for their First Communion quite a number of young people. And these young people will be beginning their journey during this season of beginnings.
For me, personally, while I receive communion each week, it is always a renewal, for me. And I actually need a few moments to take it in and fully realize that I just received Jesus and that he’s coming with me throughout the entire week, and I can make it.
I wonder what these young people will experience, what will it be like for them as they receive Jesus today at communion. Amen.

St John’s Lutheran Church Phoenixville