“Advent Is Worth the Wait” (Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10)

First Sunday in Advent
November 27, 2011

“Advent Is Worth the Wait” (Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 11:1-10)

We don’t like to wait, do we? I mean, we Americans. And especially when it comes to Christmas. Wait till the night of December 24 to start celebrating Christmas? No way! So the Christmas catalogues started coming–when, the day after Labor Day? Then came the Christmas movies: “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” came out November 4. The Christmas radio stations: “Santa Baby” was “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” already a couple of weeks ago. And the TV specials: “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” is this Tuesday. Apparently, Rockefeller Center is in a time zone 26 days ahead of the calendar.

And then there’s the Christmas shopping. Oh, the shopping! Can’t wait to get going on that! Black Friday specials! Gotta line up and camp out for the doorbusters at midnight! Can’t wait for that deal on the Xbox video game console! Gotta have it!

There’s this rush, this can’t-wait attitude toward Christmas–the world’s Christmas, at least. But it has also crept into the church, which ought to know better, since we have the true Christmas to celebrate. Why, I even heard of a church that had its “Reason for the Season” event on November 12! How ironic is that? “Reason for the Season,” yet they have it six weeks before the Christmas season begins!

By the way, the church’s Christmas, which is the real Christmas, since it’s about the birth of Christ, begins on the night of December 24 and goes for twelve days–the Twelve Days of Christmas–up until Epiphany on January 6. For most Americans, though, the whole shootin’ match is over by the morning of December 26. The trees get tossed out, and the radio stations stop playing Christmas music, just as the real Christmas season gets going. Oh well.

Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year. We can’t wait for it. And so–problem–what to do with Advent? You see, Advent is all about waiting, and we don’t like to wait. Well, we could do like most people and ignore it, pretend it doesn’t exist. But then we would be missing out on something, something that God has for us during this season that begins today. So today I am here to tell you, “Advent Is Worth the Wait.”

Advent is all about waiting. It’s a time of waiting, a whole season of waiting. But it’s not an empty waiting, like we’re supposed to spend it just twiddling our thumbs. No, the waiting we do is an active, thoughtful preparation. Advent is a season of preparing, which involves being attentive to what we’re doing while we wait and what it is–and who it is–we’re waiting for.

Advent is about waiting. You can see it in our lessons for today. In the reading from Isaiah, the prophet cries out to the Lord, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!” He wants the Lord to make his name known to his adversaries, that the nations might tremble at his presence. But that visitation to bring judgment upon the enemies of God’s people–that doesn’t happen right away. The people have to wait. But the prophet also realizes that the Lord is a God “who acts for those who wait for him.” Faith–and patience–is called for. The Lord will act, in due time. He will deliver his people from their adversaries.

It is probably a good thing that the Lord doesn’t “rend the heavens and come down” right away upon those who sin against him, because that would mean we would be toast. “Behold,” the prophet prays, a prayer of confession, “you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you.”

We too have been in our sins a long time, haven’t we? And shall we be saved? It’s a good thing the Lord is patient with us, otherwise we would not be saved. Our own righteousness, if we were to hang it out on the clothesline, is like dirty laundry. Not very pure. And like November leaves falling off the trees, we dry up and fall to the ground. Even us religious people “ain’t all that.”

We are left, then, to the Lord’s mercy, which is what Isaiah prays for: “But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O LORD, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.”

Advent, a time for prayerful, penitential reflection, enables us to take a good look at ourselves and to see our polluted garments, our dried-up-leaf status. We are left with nothing but to plead the Lord’s mercy–which is exactly where the Lord wants us to be. These weeks of waiting help us to do that. That’s why Advent is worth the wait.

Let’s go to the Epistle, the reading from 1 Corinthians. This too is about waiting. “As you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul says. See, we Christians have to wait for the Second Coming of Christ. And if they thought they had to wait way back in the first century, how much longer has the church had to wait since then, as now we are into the twenty-first century? How long, O Lord, how long? How much longer is this madness going to go on until Christ comes again and straightens everything out? Waiting for that day, while the world spins madly about us like some Black Friday shopping frenzy, and we get caught in the vortex, and we are in danger of getting sucked into the world’s value system and maybe lose our faith–this waiting for Christ to return could be dangerous, dangerous to our spiritual health.

But what does Paul say? “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.” Ah, there is the grace of God that has been given to us! God’s unmerited favor, gifts beyond what we deserve. There is our foundation. And it is God’s grace in Christ Jesus. You can’t beat that. This is the ultimate grace, the ultimate gift. God’s gift of his own Son to suffer and die for our sins, which Christ did on the cross, so that your sins are forgiven, your guilt is atoned for.

This grace enables our waiting. Paul goes on: “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here is encouragement to sustain our waiting. If God has gone to the trouble of sending Christ in the first place, to make the ultimate sacrifice for your sins and to purchase your salvation, will he not also give you the grace you need to make it to the finish line? Yes, he will! Christ himself will sustain you. He will strengthen your drooping knees and your sagging spirit. He will guard and protect you so that you not fall into sin and lose your faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ is committed to seeing us through. It is in his strength that we wait. Advent serves as a miniature of our whole life of waiting. It gives us practice in it. And so again, Advent is worth the wait.

Then we come to the Holy Gospel for today. Jesus entering Jerusalem. We always get this Palm Sunday account on the First Sunday in Advent. Because it’s about Jesus coming as King–the word “Advent” means “coming”–and the people of God greeting their King accordingly: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

“The coming kingdom of our father David!” Except it came 1,000 years after David! Again with the waiting! But I tell you, it was worth the wait. Jesus the Messiah came into Jerusalem in order to win our salvation. It came on a truly Black Friday, the Friday when the sky turned black and God’s own Son was left forsaken by his Father, as Jesus suffered the due penalty for our sins. But it took his death to put us “in the black,” forever. The riches of Christ’s righteousness have been credited to our account, and that is worth its weight in gold.

So Advent is a season of waiting. We’ve seen it today, and we will see it in the weeks to come: John the Baptist serving as the “warm-up act,” if you will, getting the crowd ready for the main attraction about to come on the stage. John calling us to “make straight the way of the Lord,” as we wait for him to come. Mary herself had to wait, nine months from the time of the annunciation to the time of the birth. Christmas did not come without some waiting.

Friends, today I am encouraging you to take advantage of this season of waiting. God has a work to do in you this Advent. Don’t skip right over it, in a frenzy to rush onto Christmas. Let Advent be Advent first. I know you’ve got the world and the culture working against you. But let Advent be Advent. There’s some good stuff in store for you this season: Some reflective repentance. Some quiet prayer, away from the madness. Take some time for that. Preparation, to welcome your Lord appropriately, at Christmas and at his Second Coming. Patience, waiting patiently for the Lord to act, in his own time and in his own way, knowing that it is all for our best. That’s what Advent is about. And it is worth the wait.

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Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 11:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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