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Advent 1 Year C November 28, 2021

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-9
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Luke 21:25-36

Today is the First Sunday in Advent. This is the New Year’s season of the Church. We change from lectionary year B to year C. Our vestments go from green to the purple which symbolizes both a season of penitence and a time to prepare for the coming of our King.

Our first reading is from the prophet Jeremiah. Scholars tell us that Jeremiah is in prison. The Babylonians have conquered Jerusalem. Jeremiah has actually seen bodies of his fellow citizens piled up in the streets. This is a terrible situation. Jeremiah has been imprisoned because he has told the king the truth. The king does not want to hear the truth.

In the midst of a national and personal tragedy, Jeremiah shares the most profound good news. God is going to raise up a king from the family of David, and this king is going to rule with justice based on a right relationship with God. Judah will be saved. Safety will prevail. Peace will come. In the midst of this disaster, God is sending a message of hope and healing.

In our epistle for today, Paul is writing to his beloved Thessalonians. This is one of the earliest letters in the New Testament. He had started this congregation just a few months ago and he has moved on to Corinth. He writes, “How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel for you before our God because of you?” Paul loves these people deeply. He is hoping to visit them and to help them strengthen their faith. They are suffering persecution. Paul prays that God and Jesus will lead him back to these beloved people. He prays,”May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.” These strong bonds of love enabled the followers of Jesus to stay close to each other when all they had were letters carried by messengers such as Timothy. We can be sure that when the people of the Church in Thessalonica heard this letter read. their “hearts were strengthened in holiness.”

In our gospel for today Our Lord tells us that there will be all kinds of tensions among nations and severe weather events, and we have certainly seen many of these kinds of upsets and turmoil. But Jesus tells us not to spend a great deal of time trying to figure out when he will come to us. Rather he tells us to be ready, to be alert.

All of our readings today tell us about how God comes to us in challenging times and gives us the good news about God’s kingdom of peace and harmony. 

Advent is a time when we look backward to the birth of our king in a cave used as a stable in Bethlehem. He came among us, just as we came into the world, as a baby. He is a king who knows what it is to be human. He grew up in a carpenter shop, helping his earthly father, Joseph, and learning his trade. Our King is fully human and fully divine. He knows us and understands us. We can look at his life and see how a human life is to be lived. A kingdom life. A life of shalom.

In Advent, we also look toward his coming again to complete his work of creation. It is going to require a great deal of effort to take this world. which is full of strife, just as Jeremiah’s world was, and filled with persecution just as the world of the Thessalonians was, and transform it into a world of peace and harmony. But that is what our King is trying to do. When he comes again, he will complete that work.

Meanwhile, he is asking us to help him with that work now. He is calling us to be people of hope as Jeremiah was in the midst of war and suffering, He is calling us to be people of love as the Thessalonians were in the midst of persecution. He is calling us to be people of faith.

Think about the power of the love that connected Paul with the community of faith in Thessalonica. As we read the passage, we can feel how much they cared about each other. And Paul prays that they will have that love for each other and for all people.

In this Advent time, this time that is between Jesus’ birth and his coming again, we have a great gift that can guide us as we try to walk the Way of Love. We can look at the life of our Lord here on earth as we read the gospels and we can see a living, breathing example of how to live as shalom people, kingdom people. We can follow his example. We have the model of a human life to follow; we have the living example of Jesus’ life. 

If we’re going to prepare the way of the Lord, we need to follow his example, and the wonderful thing is that we have his gift of grace. We have his help. Some of us are reading Bishop Curry’s book, Love Is the Way,  and it is full of people who “cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

One of the most important ways that we can be ready when he comes again is to move closer and closer to him by asking his grace to walk the Way of Love. In every choice, every decision we make, we can choose the path that will lead us closer to love. Love for each other, love for all.

Loving God, help us to be alert to opportunities to walk the Way of Love. Strengthen our hearts in holiness and faith and hope. Give us grace to be partners with you in building your shalom of peace and harmony and wholeness. Amen.

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