WAKE UP for CHRIST’s SAKE! – sermon for Advent 1B

purple universeOn this first Sunday in Advent we awakened ourselves to the cosmic contours of the darkness. Our first reading was The Star Within: a creation story by Dr. Paula Lehman & Rev. Sarah Griffith, followed  by a musical video reflection My Soul by Peter Mayer which you can watch  HERE Our Gospel reading was from Mark 13:24-37. Listen to the sermon here

 

As we embark on the journey of Advent, I need to take a poll, and there’s not much time left, so, we’ll conduct this particular poll by a show of hands. Before you answer this question, would you please close your eyes. Now, for the sake of this poll, I’m not going to continue until everyone has their eyes closed. Notice the darkness, the blackness that enfolds you. Now, I’d like you to remember the carefully and respond as honestly as possible: By a show of hands, when you were a child, how many of you were afraid of the dark? Pease answer as honestly as you can. Don’t worry about anyone knowing that you were afraid of the dark, I’m the only one who has their eyes open and I’m clergy, so I’m bound by the confidentiality of my profession and the privacy act, not to tell anyone.
Ok, those of you who were afraid of the dark when you were a child, you can put your hands down, but keep your eyes closed. Now, those of you who weren’t afraid of the dark when you were a child, please raise your hands. Ok, everyone keep your eyes closed. One more time, I need you to notice the darkness. Now, keep your eyes closed, do not open your eyes until I tell you to and listen carefully to the Gospel according to Mark:
Jesus said: “In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son-of-Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then the Son-of-Man will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. From the fig tree learn its lesson:  as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.
It is like someone going on a journey, who leaving home and putting the slaves in charge of their own work, commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do know when the lord of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at crockcrow, or at dawn, or else, coming suddenly, the lord may find you asleep.
And what I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.” The Gospel of Christ.
All right, everybody, WAKE-UP! I mean it! Wake up! There is darkness all around us!!!
Danger everywhere you look. I need you all to WAKE-UP FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!!!!
Don’t sit down! Are you crazy. Who sits down in the midst of darkness? If you sit down, you’re likely to fall back to sleep! I need you to keep awake! Keep awake—for you do know when the lord of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at crockcrow, or at dawn, or else, coming suddenly, the lord may find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all:  Keep awake.
KEEP AWAKE FOR CHIRST’S SAKE! This is the Gospel of Christ! Keep awake!
The good news is that there are those among us who have never been afraid of the dark. All right, if you promise to Keep AWAKE, you may open your eyes and sit down.
Welcome to the season of Advent. While the world is busy scurrying about preparing for the arrival of Santa Claus, we here inside the walls of the church are embarking on a journey into the darkness. Out there, t’is the season to be jolly! It is the season of good cheer, so everyone is busy getting all the stuff they need to be cheerful. There are decorations to be hung, lists to be made, presents to be bought, special food to be acquired, more presents to be bought, special drinks to be stockpiled, more presents to be bought, people to visit, more presents to buy, carols to be sung, parties to go to, people to visit, gifts to give, fun to be had as our world prepares for the arrival of  the baby Jesus or Santa Claus depending on your particular point of view. But in here, inside the walls of the church, the Body of Christ, it is my job to tell you all to wait. Advent the season when the church does it’s level best to hold off our culture’s rush toward a happy, jolly, Christmas each year!!! Advent the season of the church year, when those of us who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are invited to prepare ourselves not for the birth of a baby, but rather to prepare ourselves to give birth to Christ again and again and again.
Birth and darkness are intimately related to one another. Gestation takes place in the darkness; the seeds need the darkness of the earth, humans the darkness of the womb. Movements and revolutions are created in the darkness. The darkness of poverty and despair, the darkness of injustice and war, the darkness of danger and death germinate the seeds of movements and revolutions.
Beware! Be very aware! I am not inviting you into the darkness that is conducive to a winter’s nap. The darkness that I am inviting you into in this season of Advent, is a very dangerous darkness, the kind of darkness that requires you to KEEP AWAKE! WE ALL KNOW THIS DARKNESS WELL! We more than any of those who have gone before us are all too familiar with the darkness. We have more information about the darkness then generations of humans have ever had. At our very finger-tips we have devices which will bring word of the darkness to us 24 hours a day. In our living rooms, in our automobiles, even in the shopping malls, we can hear tell of the dangers of the darkness. Our earth is suffering under the weight of our filth.
Dangerous gases are doing their work and the earth is groan as the ice is melting, and the sea levels are climbing. Our best experts have warned us to WAKE UP.
Our world is in turmoil as nations rattle their mighty swords and weapons of mass destruction are confounded by the tenacity of child soldiers who perpetrate unimaginable horrors on terrorized populations. The pundits and the talking heads have warned us to WAKE UP. Our economies are out of control as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and we wealthy westerners fear that it is only a matter of time before the exploited and the down-trodden rise up and scream “No more!” Disease lurks out there in the darkness, Ebola, super-viruses, contagions the likes of which will make us long for the cancers we have inflicted with our pesticides, plastics and life-styles. Mental illness is on the rise! Depression is at record levels. The perils of the darkness are so acute that it is difficult to imagine that anyone can sleep at all. And yet sleep we do, mesmerized by the sedatives we have created to help us to sleep. So, we entertain ourselves with million dollar movies and sports that cost us billions; brilliant distractions that help us to sleep.
And once a year when the darkness threatens to overcome us, we turn to the lighter side of life, and engage in the bacchanal delights of Christmas, hoping against hope that a baby will save us, and when the gifts are unwrapped and the feast is consumed the darkness is still there, and we long for sleep, so we usher in the New Year with drunken frivolity so that we can embark upon the future numbed to the pain of it all.
Seasons Greetings everyone. Aren’t you glad you got out of bed and came to church? Well that’s one way to peer into the darkness. We can peer into the darkness in fear and trembling, shutting our eyes to the dangers that lurk in the dark or we can journey into the darkness with our eyes wide open, seeking to discover the light. So, each and every year, the church does it’s best to encourage those who have the courage to keep awake to journey into the darkness to seek the light. Today it is my job to encourage you to keep awake in the midst of all this darkness and to assure you that even in the darkness light shines and the darkness will not overcome the light.
It is no coincidence that across all the religions of the world the number one metaphor for Divinity is light. Light is without a doubt the most amazing thing in all of creation.
This week I read that Albert Einstein wanted nothing more than to study light. Light is at the very heart of reality. Science tells us that way back, some 14 billion plus years ago all there was existed in something smaller than a zygote; imagine if you can everything that ever was, is, and ever shall be crowded together into something smaller than a zygote. Somehow, we don’t know exactly how, puff….an explosion, or a bang, is the way some have described this cosmic expansion that continues to this day as the cosmos continues to expand. Let there be light. Universes, stars, suns if you will. Fireballs of light. Planets cooling, light shining, life. Matter the stuff of which we are made.
Quantum physics the theories developed by the smartest of the smart, is now telling us that matter the very stuff of which we are made is actually frozen light. Listen to this, maybe you can understand it, it is beyond my capabilities: “Mass or Matter is a phenomenon of connecting light rays which go back and forth, sort of freezing them into a pattern. So matter, as it were, is condensed or frozen light.  Light is not merely electromagnetic waves but in a sense other kinds of waves that go at that speed.  Therefore all matter is a condensation of light into patterns moving back and forth at average speeds which are less than the speed of light.  Even Einstein had some hint of that idea.  You could say that when we come to light we are coming to the fundamental activity in which existence has its ground, or at least coming close to it.”

Out there in the darkness, in here in the darkness, there is light. Light the Divine essence is the very stuff of which we are made. Our little systems, our little worries, the stuff that goes bump in the night, the terror we face in the darkness pales in comparison the power of the light that IS at the very core of reality itself. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness shall not overcome it. The darkness is the place where universes are born. In the midst of the darkness there are all sorts of things for us to be afraid of but there is also light and from that light life bursts forth in all its myriad complexities. Light that becomes matter is one in a billion.
Scientists tell us that for every billion particles of light only one in a billion becomes matter.
Life is one in a billion. That we exist at all is a miracle. Life is sacred. We are made up of billions and billions of particles all of which are one in a billion miracles. You are sacred. You my friends are Divine.
Wake up! Here in this darkness we are surrounded by miracles. There’s no need to dull ourselves with distractions so that we can sleep our way through the Armageddons of our creation. Life is a wonderful complex miracle, an ever-evolving complex miracle and here in the darkness something powerful is gestating. Each one of us hold within the power to evolve into all that we are created to be.
Imagine, Light, coalescing into Matter, becoming life, ever evolving for some 14 billion plus years, that Light that burns in us, that Divinity that lives in us, is what our ancestors called the Christ. The light of the world. The One who is born over and over again, who lives and breathes and has being in, with, through and beyond each and everyone of us. Jesus knew this light. Jesus lived and breathed this Light. Jesus life proclaimed that he and the Light were One. Jesus followers recognized in Jesus an expression of the Light. Our ancestors knew this light.
Sadly, we have all too often forsaken this light in favour of a tamer story, or we have interpreted the stories our ancestors gave us as pale imitations of the light. So, babies safely tucked into mangers have morphed into jolly old men in red suits inspired by Coke-a-cola advertisers who have convinced us to exchange the awesome power of the light for products and systems that numb us to the splendour of the light, so that we can sleep rather than face the awesome reality that exists in the darkness.
Our ancestors knew that there was so much more that our stories could ever express out there and in here in the darkness there is light. Our ancestors called this light Christ, other traditions have different names for this light, and generations to come will have even more names for this light. This light is at the very core of all that is. This light is ever present, ever expanding and ever changing. This light, this divinity, IS, in, with, through, and beyond us. This light is amazing, tremendous, fascinating. This light is the source of who and what we are. Living in, with, through and yes beyond this light that lives in, with through and beyond us is more wondrous than even our best stories can express. This light is more than capable over meeting the dangers of our deepest darkness.
We don’t need to dull or lull ourselves to sleep. There’s no need to escape the reality of the darkness because we have in the very fibre of our being the light which the darkness cannot overcome. To Keep awake. Do not fear the darkness. Do not be afraid. You are the light which shines in the darkness. The light, Christ, the essence of all that is, lives in, with, through, and beyond us.
Now that’s worth all the hustle and bustle. So, prepare. Make your lists, check them twice.
Soon, very soon, let the celebrations commence! The light, Christ, the essence of all that is, is about to be born again. Isn’t darkness marvellous? Miracles gestate in darkness! Ideas, revolutions, paradigm shifts, movements, humans and Christ all the Light that ever was, Is, and ever shall be is gestating right now in the darkness. Keep Awake. You don’t want to miss a moment of all that IS. Everything that Is, was, and evermore shall be, lives and breathes and has being in, with, through and beyond you. Everything we need to meet the challenges of creation, the challenges of our world, the challenges of our cultures, the challenges of our future, Everything we need lives, in, with, through and beyond you. We are all particles of the light, alone we don’t have all that it takes, but as part of the of the wave of light which shines in the darkness, we can have all we need to give birth to Christ, the Light, the Essence which is the core of reality.
Therefore, keep awake! Let our preparations commence. Let us prepare to celebrate the wondrous, miraculous, birth that is coming. Let it be so!!! Everything that Is, was, and evermore shall be, lives and breathes and has being in, with, through and beyond you. Everything we need to meet the challenges of creation, the challenges of our world, the challenges of our cultures, the challenges of our future, Everything we need lives, in, with, through and beyond you.
We are all particles of the light, alone we don’t have all that it takes, but as part of the of the wave of light which shines in the darkness, we can have all we need to give birth to Christ, the Light, the Essence which is the core of reality.
Therefore, keep awake! Let our preparations commence. Let us prepare to celebrate the wondrous, miraculous, birth that is coming. Let us rejoice and be glad,
for the day of the
ONE who IS, WAS, and EVERMORE SHALL BE
is upon us!
Let it be so!!
16

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