“What are we waiting for?” a sermon for Advent Sunday

This sermon uses the Alternative Advent Calendar, created by the young people in the Encounter group (age 10-13). See: http://www.becausegodislove.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/an-alternative-advent-calendar/

Are you good at waiting? I’m not. In fact, I’m very bad at it, especially when I’m waiting for something I really, really want. And especially if I don’t know how long I’m going to have to wait for.

Today we start Advent, which is a time of waiting. But waiting for what? For Christmas, yes. But Advent is also the time in the church year when we think about another kind of waiting for Jesus – waiting for Jesus to come again, as he has promised he will.

I wonder how many of you have an Advent calendar at home? And how many windows does it have? When we look at our Advent calendars, we know how long we have to wait for Christmas – we can count the windows, count the days, and see how we are getting nearer to Christmas day. We can make plans – for food and presents, seeing friends and family, coming to church – because we know what we’re planning for.

But the other kind of Advent waiting isn’t like that. As we wait for Jesus to return, we can’t count down the days on a calendar because, as we heard in our gospel reading, “no-one knows the day or hour”. But we can, and indeed Jesus says we must, be ready, be alert, watch for God’s coming kingdom. So what kind of Advent calendar can help us with that?

[children to hold up alternative advent calendar] Perhaps this one can. It’s a different kind of Advent Calendar, which we made at Encounter on Friday. It doesn’t have days or numbers marked on it because it isn’t to help us count down as we wait. It’s to help us think about what we are waiting for.

What are we waiting for? What are you waiting for? What is the world waiting for? Let’s have a look at some of the examples here:

Image: poppies. Text: an end to grieving.

Image: black lives matter. Text: equality for all.

Image: bread. Text: plentiful food.

And I’m sure we can think of lots more. The world is a long way from perfect. We are still waiting for God’s kingdom to come on earth as in heaven.

But it isn’t a passive waiting. In out first reading, Paul talks about the early church using and nurturing spiritual gifts as they “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We too can be waiting in a way which not only longs for, but also contributes to the coming of God’s kingdom.

We can do that in the way we respond to some of the challenges identified on our alternative advent calendar, and I do urge you to have a look at it after the service. We can do it in the way we treat people, the way we pray and yes, on this our gift day, the way we give. These are ways we can contribute to the growing of God’s kingdom as we wait for it to come in all its fullness when Jesus returns.

We can work for the coming of the kingdom, but we can also be alert to God’s presence already among us, and particularly as we prepare to celebrate again Jesus coming among us as a baby at Christmas.

Because although we wait for the coming of Jesus, make no mistake, Jesus is already here. This is the mystery of the now-and-not-yet of the kingdom. Jesus, for whom we wait with eager longing, is already among us, and nowhere more so than in the eucharist. Today Alex, Alessandro, Aaron, Amelia and Alissa will be admitted to communion, and come to experience the presence of Jesus in this new and wonderful way.

It’s a good moment for all of us to reflect on how and where we encounter Jesus. As we wait for the time when we will see God face to face, where to do we catch glimpses of God in the everyday? Where do you see Christ? In what and in whom? How do those things point you towards Jesus for whom, together, we wait?

As we enter this Advent season, let us prepare ourselves both to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and to look for his coming again. Let us be alert to the signs of God’s kingdom, wherever they appear. Let us be ready to notice Jesus drawing near to us, in the eucharist and in the world. May we watch and wait, and find the meaning in the waiting. Amen.

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