Seeing the Signs
Revd Jane Elliott
1 Corinthians: 1:3-9
This is the first Sunday of the Advent season which lasts four Sundays before Christmas Day. Advent in Latin means ‘Coming’ and is meteorologically speaking, a sign of the start of the darkest time of winter with its long nights and short days.
I titled this sermon ‘Seeing the Signs’, but I don’t think we did see the signs of this global pandemic, the worldwide sickness, death and the grief it would cause.
We didn’t see the signs of our liberty being taken away in lockdown and an old, new word – ‘furlough’ being banded about. We didn’t see the signs of the impending, extensive suffering of mental health issues, job losses, and the economic crisis round the corner.
We certainly didn’t see the signs, as we prepared for Easter, the unprecedented act of church closures around the country – but then to reopen, only to be closed again – we didn’t see the signs.
And now we are in Advent, the season of expectation and preparation and maybe we feel we have been held in that state of expectation and preparation for the last 8 months – and it continues in the preparation for future lockdowns and the expectation of being able to meet friends and family again, as a vaccine has been found and life can return to the normalcy of meeting whomever we like, whenever we like, wherever we like and giving hugs – I miss hugs!
The preparedness and expectation required from us in our reading from Mark is very different, unlike the seeming creeping up on us the virus did, here Jesus, the Light of the World reveals the signs we should look out for, to keep alert and keep awake for as no one knows when Jesus will be returning.
While we wait, we can take our eyes off Jesus, as we get bogged down with life and death, health and viruses, financial worries and everything else that weighs us down; and they are heavy burdens, making our eyes droop, our body sag and we can miss the signs of when Jesus, through his Spirit is with us, the signs of his grace, his mercy and his love.
This call to keep alert and keep awake probably seemed more imminent to the disciples, but 2000 years later we are still waiting for the second Coming, and I think sometimes with all that is happening in the world today: ongoing wars, rumours of wars, viruses, the global environmental crisis, wildfires and earthquakes – it might seem like it is all coming to an end now, but again, the signs we should look out for outlined in our reading are quite clear, another reason we should keep awake and keep alert, so we are not confused by other things going on around us.
Although this passage is a little ‘heavy’ it would seem for the start of Advent …. that time when we let ourselves begin thinking about Christmas trees, gifts, food and negotiating who to allow in our ‘bubbles’ – and not the champagne type!
The light for me in this passage is, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’ God keeps his promises, giving us words throughout scripture to encourage us, words of love, peace, joy and hope – the themes of Advent, for example…. Love: ‘I have called you by name, you are mine.’ Peace: ‘The Lord blesses his people with peace.’ Joy: ‘Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Hope: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
So, keep living life – albeit safely. Enjoy preparing for Christmas.
If it’s safe for you to do so, enjoy meeting friends and family, even if it is only 3 households! However we chose to do it, let’s celebrate Christmas at it’s proper time.
And while we do so, keep alert and keep awake by living now as we expect we will live when Christ comes and is finally here with us, so that, as Paul says, ‘He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ … And we never fear to proclaim the words, O come Lord Jesus, come quickly.