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Advent 1, November 28, 2010

Advent 1 Year A RCL December 5, 2010

Isaiah 2: 1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13: 11-14
Matthew 24: 36-44

Advent, more than any other time in the Church year, is the season in which we look forward to and prepare for the completion of the creation with the coming of our Lord to establish his shalom, his reign of peace and harmony and wholeness. Isaiah is one in a long line of prophets who have given us this vision. In today’s passage, written at a time when foreign empires threatened Israel and Judah, Isaiah looks to the time when swords will be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, a time when peace will be pursued as energetically as we prepare for war when we see a threat.

And this opens our lessons with the theme that we are called to work actively for God’s shalom. But instead of changing ploughshares into swords, instead of converting peacetime production into manufacturing military armaments, God’s vision of shalom focuses on the opposite—putting more and more of our energy into waging peace. Herbert O’ Driscoll writes, “What today must be cultivated? What in our society might ploughshares and pruning hooks mean? In an underdeveloped society this might mean land redistribution. In a developed society it might mean affordable housing and social programs for real need. Ploughshares symbolize all those actions which make possible a community of justice and peace.”

The epistle brings this point home. First, Paul summarizes the commandments, the framework for our ethical life and sums then up in “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then he speaks of a great Advent theme, the theme of waking up, being alert. “The night is far gone; the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Another resounding Advent theme is the opposition of light and darkness. “Put on the armor of light.” Later, he advises us to put on Christ, to metaphorically clothe ourselves in Christ!

The gospel builds on the theme of being awake. When our Lord comes to bring in his shalom, his commonweal, as our Presiding Bishop says, it will happen quickly. Be ready. Two men will be in the field. One will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. We need to be prepared and vigilant with the same devotion and energy with which the householder stays awake in order to prevent a robbery. We are called to make the same level of investment in God’s shalom that we make in protecting our property and our families.

There is a bumper sticker that reads, “World peace begins at home.” The reign of God, the peaceable kingdom, begins in our hearts. Each of us has within us light and darkness. It would be a wondrous and perhaps quite scary thing if tomorrow morning we could all wake up and be entirely creatures of light with no darkness within us at all, but it doesn’t happen that way. As we move into this season of anticipation and preparation, this season in which we focus on the vision of peace which we are called to bring into our hearts and lives, we may become acutely aware of our own places of darkness and powerlessness and confusion and loneliness. The light shines in the darkness but sometimes we feel far from that light. We are called to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, but, in reality, it is often a slow, painful wearing away of the darkness. It’s hard work, work which can be accomplished only with God’s grace. We know what we are aiming for, and, with hard work, prayer, and large doses of God’s grace, we move toward the goal, slowly but surely. The goal is to be more like Christ; that is our aim. The goal is to be as much as possible creatures of light. But it is important and necessary for us to admit our darkness, talk about it, bring it out into the light so that Christ can heal us and clothe us more and more in the armor of light, and help us to become more like Him.

Helping to bring in Christ’s kingdom means working toward peace and wholeness at all levels—peace in our lives, peace, shalom, in the workplace, peace in our relationships, peace deep within ourselves. Herbert O’ Driscoll says, “We are called to ‘wake,’ to offer God that active quality of human loving, an active peace seeking which can bring day rather than night.”

May we prepare for your coming, O Lord. May we abide in hope. May we be alert and awake. May we move more and more into your light and love. Amen.

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