Homily for Advent 1, Year C, 2009
Sunday, November 29th, 2009
Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Thornhill, ON
The Rev. Daniel F. Graves
Text: Luke 21:25-36
“Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
-- Luke 21:28
I am an early riser. I am also an avid listener to CBC radio. By the time I get into my car in the morning I have often listened to the newscast about a half dozen times. I don’t like to miss it even when I’ve already heard the news several times that morning. While there may be much overlap, the national news at the top of the hour is different from the local news on the half hour. Then there are the interviews and commentary in-between, and of course, there is always the breaking news. Often, I will be able to catch the beginning of the program, “The Current,” on my way to work, and on my way back down to the church for evening meetings, I enjoy “As it Happens,” both of which reflect on current news events with insightful and provocative interviews. It is nice to end my day driving home from evening meetings listening to “Ideas,” a thoughtful program that features documentary presentations on subjects of an intellectual nature. If I am out during the day visiting I often pick up bits and pieces of programming and catch up on arts and entertainment news and commentary on my way to and from visits and meetings. It is a wonderful world of news, is it not?
One day this week I couldn’t take it any more. I shut off the radio and slipped in one of my favourite Frank Sinatra CDs and breathed a sigh of relief as the “Chairman of the Board” crooned on, “Come fly with me, come fly, come fly away…”
Perhaps you will know that feeling. There is a lot going on in the world, in our lives, in our workplaces, and in our homes. If we don’t have enough confusion and trouble in our own circles we are more than willing to invite the confusion and trouble of the world into our lives by turning on the radio, the television, or the internet. And while it is wonderful to know what is going on out there, and I am all for exposing ourselves to a broad range of thoughts, ideas, and information, sometimes it can seem a bit much. Sometimes, it can seem as if the world is coming apart, locally on the half-hour and globally every hour, with traffic and weather on “the tens.”
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faints from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world…” No wonder we want to fly away, whether it be escaping simply through the words of a Sinatra song, or more seriously, and more tragically for some, the decision to give up on life and the world altogether.
Yet, it is at this precise moment, the moment in which we want to escape that we hear the command, “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption draweth nigh!” What? Amidst the confusion of nations; amidst the confusion of our homes; amidst the confusion of voices around us; amidst distress, loss, foreboding and fear, our redemption draweth nigh? When these things happens our natural tendency is to run for the hills, to hide our faces, to “duck and cover,” but no – stand up, raise your head, your salvation is near!
This is a shocking command because contrary to what many people may think the Christian faith has never been about escaping a terrible world and its apparent hopeless plight. In the early of Christianity a heresy arose called Gnosticism. One of its principal errors was divorcing of the spiritual from the material. In Gnostic thought the material world is bad and the spiritual world is good. In Gnostic thought the redeemer is the one who delivers the enlightened believer from the evil material world into the spiritual realm. But our Christian faith is entirely rooted and grounded in a God who enters into the material world not to destroy it, nor to ferret us out of it, but to redeem in, restore, it remake it. And in all of this, we are invited to be God’s co-creators.
It is precisely at the moment when we are overwhelmed; it is precisely in the moment when we feel like abandoning hope in the world God has created; it is precisely in the moment when we long to fly away, that God enters in. God enters in to bring hope to those who suffer violence at the hand of another, to break the rod of the oppressor. God enters in to comfort and weep with those whose hearts are broken, those who have lost one so dear to them. God enters in to calm the souls of those who are afraid, who have become immobilized by anxiety, depression and hopelessness. And God enters in as the events of the hurting world seem oh so overwhelming to those of us who long only for peace and tranquility amongst nations. God enters in not to destroy this world and the men and women in it, but to redeem the Earth and all its peoples.
“I look from afar, and Lo! I see the power of God coming and a cloud covering the whole Earth!” (From the Matin Responsary for Advent)
Therefore, we shall not run to the hills or flee from the world, as tempting as the words “come fly with me” may be. Rather we shall be alert, stand tall, and lift up our heads in joyful anticipation that God is about to do a new thing. Let us go out to meet him and say, “Art thou he that should come and reign over thy people Israel?” Surely he is the one. Our redemption, and the redemption of the whole world, as troubled as it is, is drawing nigh.
c. 2009 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves