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Advent 1B November 30, 2014

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

 This Sunday, we begin the season of Advent. This is the New Year of the church. We change from lectionary A to lectionary B. We change from the green vestments of the season after Pentecost to purple to denote the coming of our King and also a time of penitential preparation. We begin lighting the candles on the Advent wreath and opening the doors on our Advent calendars to count the days. Advent means coming,and we are looking forward to the coming of our Lord to complete the creation. We are also looking back to his first coming among us as a baby, 

When Jesus was here with us on earth, he began to build his kingdom. But that kingdom is not complete. The world is not a place of peace harmony, and wholeness. As our Presiding Bishop, Katherine Jeffers Schori writes, Shalom is a vision of the city of God on earth, a community where people are at peace with each other because each one has enough to eat, adequate shelter, medical care, and meaningful work. Shalom is a city where justice is the rule of the day, where prejudice has vanished,where the diverse gifts with which we have been so abundantly blessed are equally valued.(A Wing and a Prayer, p. 33.) 

The prophet Isaiah was one of the people who described Gods vision of shalom. Our reading from the Book of Isaiah dates back to the time of the Exile in Babylon, the time after the temple in Jerusalem was reduced to a pile of rubble, the time before the temple was finally rebuilt. Herbert ODriscoll imagines that the prophet has returned from Babylon and is gazing on the rubble that was once the great temple, the center of worship.

Isaiah asks God to tear open the heavens and come downto be with the people. He looks back to the time when God was close to the people and led them out of slavery into freedom. But the people have not called upon God. They have gone about their own ways. Isaiah confesses the sins of the people and asks God to grant mercy. He gives us that powerful image: God is the potter and we are the clay. We need to ask Gods help often so that we can grow into the persons God calls us to be.

For Isaiah and the rest of Gods people, life had been reduced to a pile of rubble. They felt that they had strayed far away from God, and they believed that this had something to do with the fact that they had been conquered by the Babylonian Empire. I think we all understand those points in life when we have tried our best and worked hard and everything falls apart. Everything is in ruins. Thats where Isaiah and the people were. Especially at times like this, we realize that we cant do it alone. We need Gods help.

In our epistle this morning, Paul is writing to the congregation in Corinth. He starts out with his typical greeting. Grace be to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind.

This is a positive thing. But there is an undercurrent. We know that the congregation in Corinth has been blessed with many gifts, but they also have been arguing about which gifts are the greatest. Paul is going to address this in the letter. Also, some of the older members of the community have been telling the newer members that they arent quite as good because they are still new at the faith. I would say that they are bullying the newer members. Paul is building the foundation for telling them us that we need to thank God for all the gifts we receive and we need to value all gifts and all people equally. That is the direction in which we need to be moving in order to prepare for Jesuscoming again.

In our Gospel, Jesus is once again telling us not to spend any time trying to predict when he will come again. He tells us to put our energy into being ready to welcome him with joy when he comes to bring in his kingdom. 

Well, how do we get ready? First, we can take time to be as close to God as possible. Time for prayer. Time for quiet. Time to examine our lives, to take stock. We make wills or update wills. We straighten out our finances and get our lives in shape to be ready when he appears.

As we look ahead to the coming of our Lord, we recall his first advent, when he came among among us as one of us, as a little baby.

In his anguish, Isaiah was asking God to tear the heavens and come and help us, but that was five hundred years before the birth of our Lord. God has already come to be with us, and this sheer, loving fact gives us a way to think about preparing for him this Advent. Through prayer, through taking time to think about how much God must love us, that God would come to be with us, we make room in our hearts and lives for Jesus to be born anew in us. As so many of the mystics have said, we must allow and invite Jesus to be born in our lives over and over again. We must make room in the inns of our hearts so that Jesus can come into our lives and share his love and healing and transform us so that we can transform the world.

God did not tear the heavens to come to be with us. God came to be with us as one of us. If we look back on the life and ministry of Jesus and we model our lives after that life, we will grow more and more like him, and his shalom will be even closer to its completion.

Dear Lord, thank you for your love. Thank you for coming to be one of us. Help us to make room for you in our lives. Help us to become more and more like you, so that, together, we may build you shalom.

Amen.

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