“Keep awake!” – sermon for Advent Sunday

Advent is a journey.
But what sort of journey?
We all know what lies at the end of the journey – Christmas!
But can Advent be something more than just ‘getting ready for Christmas’?
It can, and it should.

The point of our Advent journey is not so much where we are going
– we know that, we can already see the manger ahead of us –
but how we travel.
So, how should we travel,
how should we live,
in this Advent season?

There are clues in today’s readings.
“Keep awake,” says Jesus – twice in today’s gospel reading – “keep awake!”
We should be alert, awake, alive to the possibility of God’s coming among us, looking for the signs of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

And those signs,
those glimpses of the glory that is coming,
are everywhere around us,
if we have eyes to see them.
In every small act of kindness,
every movement towards justice,
every moment of forgiveness,
God’s Kingdom is already here.

These signs, these glimpses,
these foretastes of the kingdom,
are the source of our hope.
Hope is the foundation of the Christian faith,
hope that there is more than this,
hope that the arc of the universe is, in the end, bending towards justice,
however arduous the journey.
Advent is, above all, a time of hope.

And hope is a gift our world sorely needs,
now as much as it ever has.
Our task is not just to look for signs of hope, not just to find hope,
nor even just to share the hope we find.
We are to live as people of hope.
We who believe in a God who,
in the resurrection,
is the ultimate source of hope,
must find ways to make that hope real,
in the way we live.

Our first reading speaks of a world shaken to its roots,
radically shaken,
shaken so that the mountains quake and the seas boil.
It is perhaps not so hard to recognise this shaking in our own world,
our own times –
the world can seem very shaky at the moment.

But in that shaking, there is a call
to us, the people of hope, the people of God,
to lift up our heads,
to see what’s coming,
and to meet it with hope,
refusing to be prey to fear,
but stepping out in faith,
to engage with the world as it is,
in the hope of how the world can be.

Wherever we find ourselves,
whether it’s protesting against the closure of vital children’s services,
whether it’s standing up to bullies in the playground,
whether it’s questioning the ethics of investments or policies,
we are called to live full of hope,
which drives out fear,
and brings in the transformation
of this shaky, shaken world.

At Advent, and at all times,
we are called
to point to the light that is already dawning,
the light of the Son who is almost at the horizon,
to echo the cry of Jesus: “keep awake”.

May we journey this Advent as people of hope,
may we share the reason for the hope that is within us,
Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

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