Yr B ~ Advent 1 ~ Mark 13:32-37 (The Message Translation)
And so we enter the Season of Advent – a season of waiting with anticipation for the coming of Jesus. That’s a loaded statement, of course, and we’ll unpack it in a few minutes, but for now let’s talk about Advent in broad terms.
Way back when Advent was treated more like Lent. A sombre and introspective time of thinking about heavy theological things, and preparing the way. Over time we’ve shifted it a bit. Now we focus more on the waiting part. And considering when Advent happens waiting is really hard.
December is a month that’s been taken over by the hubbub and franticness of preparing for Christmas. People worry and fuss about decorating, and getting their shopping done, and entertaining (and being good for Santa). There are big concerts, and celebrations, and parties, and food, food, food!
Usually by the time Christmas actually arrives we’re exhausted from all the preparations! The 12 days of Christmas are supposed to START on Christmas day. Instead we tend to stop then. We’re tired of Christmas before the church calendar even says we’re supposed to start celebrating it!
And into that mix preachers like me get to stand here and tell everyone to slow down and wait.
Instead of shop, bake, clean, and party we offer theological words like hope, peace, joy, and love.
I trust you don’t hear me saying all that usual Christmas stuff is bad.
It just needs balance. And this Advent waiting and anticipation in church is a great balance to the way Christmas unfolds out there.
Church and culture don’t have to be enemies in Advent, but there is some tension. For example, you’ll notice that even though some radio stations have already gone to all Christmas music all day long we have only one Christmas carol during the worship service in the morning – and I do that reluctantly! We’re also experimenting with some pre-church carol singing because the mean minister won’t do it during worship!
Scripture too is a challenge during Advent because we can’t tell the nativity story yet. Even if we could get the world to stop focusing so much on Santa and instead to focus on Jesus Advent tells us, nope, not yet, gotta wait for Jesus until at least the 24th! Instead, all the texts are about waiting, and some of them are pretty harsh.
And that’s why we focus so much on those four themes – hope, peace, joy, and love.
This week the theme is about hope.
But the passage from Mark doesn’t sound like hope at first. It sounds like Santa saying “You better watch out!”
Mark 13:32-37 – a homeowner goes on a trip and leaves their servants in charge. The focus is on the gatekeeper. They’re supposed to make sure they don’t fall asleep on the job. To keep awake. To watch. To wait. (Sounds like Advent, right?) But then it says to watch and wait and stay awake because you don’t know when the master is coming!
Um, but we do.
We’ve got these neat things called calendars and it’s really clearly marked that on Dec 25th we’ll mark the day that Jesus was born.
(Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the actual day – no one could possibly know the actual day – but that’s when we mark the day so we just go with it.)
Except even we in the church can’t wait that one more day and we actually celebrate Jesus’ birth on the 24th!
Scripture says we don’t know the day – don’t know the timetable. And yet we have these calendars that clearly mark off the days.
Some people start counting the days to Christmas in the summer!
Heck some even start the day after Christmas anticipating next year! (I doubt though that it’s Jesus they’re waiting for!) read on