Advent 1B’20
29 November 2020
Is.64.1-9; Ps. 80; Mk.13.24-37
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Stir up your strength and come to help us. Restore us, O God of hosts: show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved… In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. – from Psalm 80

The other day I saw an image on someone’s facebook page that really stuck with me, it was a poster, at the top it said in small red letters, “The beginning” and then written about a hundred times in black ink were the words, “The middle”, then at the very bottom again in small red letters were written the words, “The end.” This seemed to me to be a pretty good way of thinking about the season of Advent, which begins today. Advent is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventus, and it means “coming”.

The ancient prophesies foretell the coming of the Messiah, God in human flesh who would save us from ourselves. But after the prophecies there were many ups and downs ‘in the middle’ that the people of God had to go through before these prophecies could be fulfilled. Now on the other side of the first advent, we are waiting for Christ’s second advent when as the creed says, “he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Just like those who waited for Christ’s first coming had no control over the time or place neither do we who are waiting for Christ’s second coming: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, not the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”[1]

The beginning – Christ’s first coming, has already happened and we have no idea about when his second coming will be so where does that leave us? Smack dab in the middle, where all of Christ’s comings are happening all over the place ‘in between the two advents.’ And what are these comings “in between?” C.S. Lewis described it this way: “We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God.  The world is crowded with Him.  He walks everywhere incognito.  And the incognito is not always hard to penetrate.  The real labor is to remember, to attend, in fact, to come awake.  Still more, to remain awake.”[2] In other words, until Christ’s second advent he will continue to be born in us by showing up and bringing new life all around us if we but only have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

But there are some things that can cause us to miss all of his smaller comings into our lives, things like depression, despair, discontent, displacement, drowsiness, and distraction. Any one of these has the potential to derail us in the middle passage between the beginning and the end.

This time of year those who normally suffer with depression can find it much worse for them, and it can cause whomever it touches to feel like God is a million miles away.

There are others who feel derailed by despair, that foreboding sense that things just aren’t’ ever going to work out for you or for the ones you love.

There are others who, no matter what they have achieved, never feel that it is ever good enough; and this leaves them with a feeling of discontent.

There are those who have been displaced, and for whatever reason find themselves feeling out of place and devaluing any contribution they could make for a better world.

There are others who are spiritually drowsy, these folk have ‘fallen asleep at the wheel’ of their spiritual lives and are allowing the car to take them down aimless and futile paths that leave them running on empty. To have a spiritual life requires time and effort.

There are others still who are driven to distraction. Psychiatrist Carl Jung once commented “if the devil can’t make us bad he will simply make us busy.” This being pulled in twenty different directions can defocus our lives into fragmented parts leaving us scattered and unfulfilled.   Again, C.S. Lewis speaks to our overfilled and unfulfilled lives: “Our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”[3]  Advent serves to wake us up to the fact that the periods of darkness are pregnant with hope – the hope that Christ will come and show up in our lives bringing new life at an unpredictable time and a time that is totally out of our control.

Where is it in our lives that we feel “incomplete, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose?” Where is it in our lives that we feel depressed, in despair, in a place of discontent, in displacement and feeling out of place, spiritually drowsy, or driven to distraction? Where are the places within us that the kingdom of God has not fully come? These are the places that make advent matter to us in our modern day. These are the places in our lives that cause us to say along with the psalmist in exile: Stir up your strength and come to help us. Restore us, O God of hosts: show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.” And – these are the very places that are filled with the promise of the coming of Christ the messiah who says: “Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

In the middle of our journeys in between the beginning and the end we say – Come Lord Jesus, come! Amen.

[1] From Mark 13.24-37 NRSV

[2] Lewis, C.S. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer, p.75

[3] Lewis, C.S., The Four Loves, pp. 13-14