Advent Week One : Time to Get Ready!

Advent Week One : Time to Get Ready!

Advent is here and this year I am excited to share my sermon series that goes along with the thoughts and words of author, Mark Villano, and his book A Time to Get Ready. Enjoy, as I enjoyed, and if you are inspired at all, go get Mark’s book and read it in full! Pastor Dawn

If I say the words “Once upon a time…”. What happens to you? Do your ears get ready for a story or an announcement? Do you lean forward in expectation or immediately think about a childhood story that you loved to hear read to you?

For me, these words are intriguing and say to me that something is coming. Yet “once upon a time” is not as specific to one story as other words such as if I say, “A night before Christmas and all through the house….(finish the sentence for me)”….not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Now, when I say the word “Advent” to you as Christians, I hope that you get the same feelings as when someone says, “Once upon a time”, because the season of Advent is a season of expectation, of hope, of dreaming about how it was back then when the Christ-child was born in Bethlehem; when the adventure of our Lord, coming to Earth, was just starting out.

Even though we know the Christmas stories of our faith tradition well, let alone the ending that occurred years later on Resurrection/Easter Sunday, there is an excitement in the air, not only to hear the beloved songs and stories of the season again, not just to relive family memories or to anticipate Grandma’s best cooking of the year; but to relive in our hearts all that it will mean to humankind that we celebrate that Jesus the Christ is born, once more.

Advent comes and asks us if we know what time it is. It doesn’t ask what time it is in hours or minutes, like a school teacher trying to teach a child how to read a clock might ask us, but it asks if we know the Chronos, or the span of time that we are entering.

The apostle Paul used another measurement for time when he spoke of Kairos, God’s time and a quality of time, but either way the event is one from God, about God, and about God’s relationship with each one of us, so Advent is that Chronos, Kairos, and span of time that brings such significance in our lives.

We come today, at the start of the month and the start of Advent, to ask if we can sense the invitation of God into our lives; just as the prophet Isaiah wrote about 600+ years beforehand.

Hear now our scripture for today, as it comes to us from Isaiah 2:3-4 (NIV).
Isaiah 2:3-4 New International Version (NIV)
3 Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Where Chronos’ ordering or measuring of hours or days in a time span, come together with God’s time, Kairos, we find the moments of deep understanding and life with meaning. If you follow the Quaker tradition, and many other traditions that are known for quiet pensiveness and calmness, Kairos is a time for listening for the voice of God through the world around us, as God has a place in every place on Earth.
The expectation part comes, just as Mary and Joseph expected the arrival of the baby and the beginning of whatever God had chosen for them as earthly parents of the Messiah, however that was to be. For us the expectation is that the Lord will speak with each one of us, especially in this special season, when expectation is at its highest even among the least of believers and the gift will be received; the gift of Jesus, of course, but another gift too. A new gift for each one of us, each year, is the gift of hearing God speak to us, if we listen. We need not be famous like Albert Schweitzer, Mother Teresa, or Pope Francis, to hear God. We simply need to go up to the mountain, figuratively speaking, and wherever we expect to hear from God, we need just be ourselves and then listen for God calling us directly. Look for God in places we may not have before. Allow others to be God’s voice for us, at times.

Author, Mark Villano, in his book Time to Get Ready, says that we should savor the moments of Advent as we would savor the peeling a ripe and juicy orange; just before we taste it and eat it. We are to savior the aroma, the smell of citrus pulsing in the air as the richness of its skin breaks open, and the thoughts of what is to come when we finally taste the sweetness of it and makes our mouths water and brings a smile to faces.
Savor the moment in advent! Do not jump too fast forward or ahead of God and God’s timing. Appreciate each day.

2 Peter 3:8-9 says (NIV)
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Don’t just rush from Advent to Lent, is what I clearly hear!…Don’t rush from Christmas to Easter…from birth to death…For you will miss God’s lessons, God’s voice, and God’s timing for you. You will miss the point that Jesus came, God incarnate, to teach us much before his time on the cross and his resurrection, as possible. We can’t rush God in what we are to hear, take in, and hopefully learn from God. So too, we should not rush through life and living with God. For the truth is, shares Villano, the more we try to rush to the end, the more ironic it is that we are less satisfied with right where we are presently. It becomes hard to wait, hard to cultivate patience, and then hard to hear our Lord. Nothing seems as good as it could be or even as happy as it was yesterday, when we rush to tomorrow.

I think there is something to be said in living in the present. When I live in the past, I only get what I have already gotten, and perhaps it is better in my mind than the first time, yet often it can be worse than the first time, however that was, if I do not let go of what I have already repented of, already dealt with, but instead obsess over again and again… Have you been there in some way?

Where if I live always in the future, I can neither enjoy the moment nor stop worrying that I won’t somehow get to the glorious future that I keep dreaming and working towards, and the truth is, life is now. Life for me may not even exist for me or you, or all of us, tomorrow. Young or old, healthy or not, nothing about tomorrow is guaranteed to ever show up as we dream it, as we truly do not control tomorrow.

We need to be reminded, as Villano does in Time to Get Ready, that the prophet Isaiah lived through the time when Israel’s people were taken into exile in Babylon, then when they were able to return to Jerusalem, Zion as they called it, they were devastated because their homes, temple, government building, monuments all of it was destroyed and they became devastated in spirit and expectations diminished to a low. Hope was gone. Despair set in, but Isaiah was there to help them walk in the moment, to not avoid or escape the moment, but to see that God was still walking with them in hope and that they needed to keep living into, each day, the words of peace to come, as the Lord’s messenger, would…

“…judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.”

Be aware and keep alert for the coming of God’s chosen one…He will teach and rule that all should love one another….That nation should not take up sword against other nation, nor train for war. Important words…then and now!

Unfortunately, whether Jew or Christian, we have not yet heeded this call, but we can change. We can listen more intently like a child that hears those words, “Once upon a time….”

Children come without preconceived notions of what will happen, when it will happen, or even about how something should happen. They come when the feel, hear, smell, and somehow taste something good; like the orange being peeled an eaten. They came to Jesus that way when He was here too!

Romano Guardini once wrote in his Meditations on Christ, that the children must have loved going to see Christ or they would not have run to him, nor even wanted to come with their mothers to see Jesus. They must have seen something in him, something in what he called the Kingdom of God, here on earth as it is in Heaven.

We need to be like the children and trust the timing of God, as we run towards Christmas but sit patiently in Advent, with expectations that are childlike. We need to trust the stories without evidence of modern day science to say it happened exactly this way or another. For in the end, the taste will be what God makes the orange taste like, one way or the other. You see, brothers and sisters, our faith does not come in knowing or proving that an orange is an orange. It comes in knowing what the orange is for us, that it was given to us, and is to be held as the precious gift that it is, so that we may taste its good flavor and be nourished by it in the end.
Our faith, my brothers and sisters, does not come in knowing everything about God, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but in “our awareness that we known and loved by God, the three in one. That we are the object of concern for God. That we are the item of great need, for which God will show great care, and will continually try to coax towards a relationship with our creator. We are to God as a precious orange is to a child without fresh good. Advent then, is that season that simply reminds us. It is time to stop, listen, live, and give thanks, once more, to God.

Your Giving is an act of worship!

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