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Advent 1 Year A RCL November 27, 2016

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

This Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, is the New Year’s Day of the Church calendar. We change from Lectionary C to Lectionary A. Our liturgical color changes from green to purple, the color of royalty because Christ is our King, and also the color of penitence because Advent is a time of self-examination when we take stock of our spiritual lives and prepare for the coming of Christ to complete the creation.

But Advent is also a kind of in-between time because we are looking forward to the coming of our Lord, but we are also looking backward to his first coming to earth as a little baby born in Bethlehem. In this in-between time, we recognize that his kingdom has already begun but it is not yet complete. There is much work yet to do.

Advent is a time to get ready, to be awake, to prepare the way of the Lord. It is a good time to clean house, to get things in shape, to make or revise wills, to take time to evaluate our spiritual fitness and to make any necessary adjustments to get ourselves fully in line with our Lord’s model of how to live a human life.

In our first reading, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the kingdom, the shalom of God is proclaimed. We are called to “beat [our] swords into plowshares, and [our] spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall [we] learn war any more.” God is calling us to turn weapons of war into tools for raising crops and feeding people. God is calling us to turn from violence toward care and compassion. As we look around our world and see what is happening in Aleppo and other places, and see refugees fleeing by the hundreds and thousands, and hear that our Air Guard is going on yet another mission, we are reminded of how much work there is yet to do.

Our psalm speaks powerfully of the beautiful city of Jerusalem, which is a holy place for three major religions of the world. We work and pray for the day when all people may gather as one in that holy city, but the way forward will demand deep thought and more prayer and skilled diplomacy and understanding of centuries of history. Yet this is another step in helping to bring in God’s shalom.

In our reading from his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul strikes another Advent note. God is calling us to be awake. The night of darkness is almost over. The day is near. We are called to “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” But this armor is not ordinary armor. It is the fabric of the Being of Christ. We are called to actually dress ourselves in the likeness of Christ. We are called to continue on our journey of becoming more and more like him.

We are called to prepare, to be ready for his coming, and we are told in today’s gospel just how sudden his appearing will be. We need to begin now to achieve total readiness, because there is not going to be much warning. Our Lord calls us to “Keep awake.”

Just as winter comes. clear and fresh and cold, Advent comes to call us to awake to our ongoing process of transformation and our call to help our Lord build his kingdom of peace, wholeness, and harmony for the entire creation.

And today we make our United Thank Offering, a small expression of gratitude for all the gifts he gives us every day. Science is now telling us how powerful gratitude can be. It can improve our physical and mental health. It can actually strengthen us to be stronger and better ministers of Christ.

As we live in this in-between time, we are deeply grateful that our Lord came among us all those centuries ago, not as a rich and powerful king, but as a human being just like us. He was born of Mary in Bethlehem, grew up in the out of the way village of Nazareth in Galilee, helped Joseph in the carpenter shop, learned how to work hard and be honest and care about others as we all do in the small villages of Vermont.

We are grateful that he knows each of us and cares about us and about all people. He loves and cares about every person on this planet. And he loves the entire creation. He calls us to care about each other and about the creation which he called into being.

When he comes to make the creation whole and bring in his kingdom, he wants us to be ready, to be fully awake. When he comes to bring in his shalom, we will each look into his eyes, those eyes full of love for us and for the world he has created. And he is going to want us to be ready to help him in that work of completing his shalom.

The world of his shalom is a far cry from the strife-filled world of today. In that world, because of his abiding love, there will be a place for everyone to live and work and thrive. No one will be left out. No one will be on the sidelines or on the margins. Everyone will be included and valued. Everyone will have enough, not only to survive, but to thrive and grow.

This Advent, let us be fully awake; let us do everything we can to be in top spiritual shape; let us continue to work to help our Lord build his shalom; let us be grateful for his coming among us to live a human life and show us the way to live together. Let us put on his likeness and continue to follow him.  Amen.

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