God is Faithful
Year B, Advent 1
Grace Episcopal Church
The Rev. Timothy J. Howe
November 28, 1999
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
Title: God is faithful
This morning, we enter the last liturgical season before the year 2000. Christmas is just around the corner. If we survived last Friday's rush, we may still have a chance at celebrating Christmas with some good cheer.
Advent is a season of waiting and preparation. We look back in celebration of Christ's first coming as the baby of Bethlehem. And we look forward in Advent to Christ coming again in glory to reign upon the earth.
Most of us are quite comfortable with Christ in Bethlehem. After all, how threatening can a baby be? They are cute and cuddly. I think many of us, myself included, are inclined to think that the Christ child sort of glowed with a soft, gentle, holy light when He was born. We feel comforted by the presence of this Holy Baby.
We should feel this way, for Jesus came to bring the comfort of the holy God into our lives. He came to bring us God's forgiveness and grace. At Christmas we celebrate the goodness of God made real in human flesh.
However, we usually feel very uncomfortable when we think about the second coming of Christ to earth. There have been too many scares and panics over the centuries for most people to feel completely at ease with the thought that one day, Jesus will reenter history.
In the last few months, of course, we have seen Y2K take on nearly panic proportions in some circles. Various prophets of doom regale us with their predictions of the end of the world as we now know it all because of our computers.
Will the world end on January 1, 2000? Probably not. It will probably still be here on January 1, 2001, the real start of the new millennium.
Does this mean that Jesus is not coming back ever? No. Jesus is coming back, at the time and hour set by God the Father, not by any prophets of doom and gloom.
Advent reminds us of this. Jesus tells us to be alert, keep awake, be aware of the things going on around us. He warns His disciples that His return will come suddenly, at an hour no one expects.
These words were meant to fill His disciples with joy and expectation. Advent forces us to reexamine our faith by asking us this question: Do we look forward to the return of Christ with the same enthusiasm and longing we experience when we contemplate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem?
Advent reminds us that the longings of our hearts are met and fulfilled only in Christ and in His work for us. First, as the baby in Bethlehem, come to fulfill God's promises to save and redeem His people. Second, as the returning King, He comes to complete the salvation of the world, setting right its evils and wrongs. He will usher in a new reign of peace and joy for all who have longed for His coming.
The return of Christ ought not to terrify us. Rather, the contemplation of what He will do when He returns should fill us with a warm longing and strong desire to see that day and to live in it ourselves. For it will be a day unlike any other in the history of the world!
Christmas brings us comfort, the comfort of God with us. Christmas lets us know that God knows what our lives are like. God has walked where we walk, God has suffered like we suffer.
Christmas speaks to us of the love of God come down to earth, bringing peace to our troubled souls, restoring hope when hope is lost, bringing joy in knowing that God is with us, still today.
We celebrate Christmas with the giving of gifts to our loved ones. The gifts we give are a reflection of the Great Gift God has given in Jesus Christ.
The Second coming of Christ will also be a day of celebration for His faithful. It will mean the end of suffering. Temptations and sin will cease to afflict us. God will banish sickness away forever. Fear will cease to exist. Our oldest, most powerful enemy, death, will be conquered and overthrown forever.
Further, the enemies of God, both human and demonic, will finally be purged out of God's universe. When Christ returns, He will make all injustices right; He will avenge all evil inflicted; He will extinguish all sin.
These thoughts should fill our hearts with longing for that day. We ought to yearn to see Christ return.
Yes, there will be distress. Yes, there will be darkness, as the Bible says in many places. But if we belong to Christ, we will not need to fear. The God who clearly loves us enough to save us, loves us enough to rescue us from the things that destroy.
Jesus will come again, not to bring terror to us, but to usher us into a Paradise beyond our wildest imagination. His word to us in Mark's gospel is to Watch and be ready for that day.
Advent, then, is the season when we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ. This is His first Advent, or coming, into the world. Advent is also the season when we remember and prepare for His second Coming at the end of all things. He will come, not to bring terror to His people, but to complete their salvation.
I believe C.S. Lewis once captured the right perspective on our Lord's return. He wrote something to the effect that we ought not to fear the return of Christ, for while one phase of our history will end with His return, His return will actually be the beginning of our story as men and women of God. What went wrong in the Garden of Eden will be made right and the purpose for our Creation in the image of God will become clear to us.
When Christ returns, all the misery of this world will sink into oblivion as God's people begin the first chapter of God's new story, the story He intended for us to follow and enjoy when He first created us.
These thoughts should bring us comfort in our trials here and now. Someday, God will call a halt to all the pain and tribulation and suffering this world inflicts upon us. You and I, if we are faithful to Christ will see with our own eyes the coming of God's Kingdom in power and majesty.
So, this Advent, we prepare for Christmas. But, let us also prepare for the Return of Christ in power and glory to finish our salvation. Let us look forward to that day when Christ returns with faith and eagerness to see our Lord face to face. Amen.