Sermon Delivered at Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University on December 4, 2018 Eucharist by Deacon Nick Bates, Director of the Hunger Network.
I love Advent - The preparation, the planning, and the excitement, which builds over the next four weeks until that Christmas morning. If you are around young children, then you are aware of what I call the Advent vibration. Beginning the day after Halloween, kids will begin to vibrate with anticipation and excitement about the upcoming Christmas holiday. Unlike normal sugar rushes, there is no sugar crash in mid November, it just continues to grow!
And as adults, we should be just as excited about Christmas, because it is about a promise that God will be with us. Emmanuel through the thick and thin, the up’s and downs, the joys and the sorrows of life.
But as I walk around in our world, people question ‘where is God?’ How have these promises actually been fulfilled? We say Emmanuel, but where is our loving Lord?
In our world, we see 1 in 5 kids experiencing hunger in our communities – despite a ‘roaring economy’. We see migrants fleeing their homes in fear for their lives and the lives of their children. Despite ending slavery 150 years ago in our nation, we continue to lock up African Americans at extraordinary rates, because racism still exists in our world. The Ohio Legislature is considering legislation that will follow the example of Florida by passing ‘Stand your ground’ legislation that led to the murder of unarmed Trayvon Martin and his attacker received no punishment for his actions…
So where is God?
Our Gospel lesson says, ‘Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place’. Do we know that God has fulfilled this promise?
Where is God?
Is God with us? The answer is yes - Like a pebble thrown into the middle of the lake, the ripples are constantly moving outward. While evil, oppression and suffering exist in our world, God presence is there to guide and comfort us and lift us up when we have fallen. God is in, with and around us.
The resurrection is so more than a pebble with tiny ripples into each of our lives, it was a boulder, a stone rolled away from the tomb, a cataclysmic event changing the fabric of our world, not just in death with eternal life, but in the present. Christ changed who we are.
God is with us.
But the question is do want God with us? The reality is that many of us only want a God made in OUR image instead of us in the image of God.
We can read the prophets like Jeremiah or Amos a lot of threats of punishment. We can try to create a distinction of an Old Testament God based on anger and a New Testament God based on happiness. We can read apocalyptic literature and live in fear of some futuristic damnation and punishment.
But we can only think these things when we read them from a position of privilege and ignorance. Acceptance of the Status quo as ‘perfect’ ignores the suffering of God’s children that continues to exist in our world.
The language of apocalyptic literature, the promise of the old world passing way is Good News! The promise of a branch rising up to execute justice and restore right relationship in our world is Good News.
When Scripture tells us that the old world is going to/already is passing away, some are fearful because they built their wealth, power and privilege on the top of worldly powers of oppression and sin. But for the many, it is not fear invoking to hear of God’s reclamation of humanity away from these sinful forces. It is hope and promise that God is with us.
God is with us as we struggle with poverty, oppression, God is with us as we deal with prejudice and discrimination. God is with us.
But we sit here in this ‘already but not yet time.’ We sit here in this advent of God’s reconciling work to be fully realized, we sit with hope, patience and anticipation.
We wait on God in the same fashion that the children wait on Christmas morning.
We should be vibrating with excitement of God’s reconciling work to be fully realized in our lives. And the thing about vibrating, it is a movement that we cannot control. A movement that propels us forward.
We are to go and stand with those who are hungry and feed the
We are to stand with those at the boarder and welcome them
We are to stand with those fighting against racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and stand with them in their advocacy.
Why is advent my favorite season in the church year? Because it reflects where we are in our world today. We know the promise of God’s reconciliation, but we sit in this in-between time, preparing for the inevitable.
No matter what we do, December 25th will happen. Even if we don’t buy presents, trim the tree or light any candles. Christmas will be here before you know it.
No matter what we do, Christ’s reconciliation of the entire creation is happening.
But with Christmas, we don’t just sit back – not even scrooge was able to just sit back and let Christmas happen around him. Not even scrooge could resist the Christmas vibration of Tiny Tim in that classic Dickens tale.
We should be vibrating with that same level of excitement that children demonstrate during this time of year. Our vibrations aren’t about Christmas trees but about God’s loving presence with us and with our world.
The advent vibration isn’t just about an action here and there, its more than one volunteer trip to the food pantry, its more than one letter to your representative, its more than just one kind word to an unkind person. Instead, the advent vibration is a call to live our lives to orient our lives toward God’s Justice.
While we wait for the full revelation of God to appear before us,
live with the hope,
live with anticipation,
and live everyday with advent vibration
toward God’s justice in the world.