Readings: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 and Mark 13:24-37
Nov. 29, 2020
By Rev. Marguerite Sheehan
Happy New Year! I love that our church year begins again every year with Advent, the season of expectant waiting. Our year begins with a focus on who — not just what, but who — is coming our way. We start today with hope in our ability to stay awake to perceive, as Nancy sang this morning, the “the rose e’re blooming.” Hope, as the Apostle Paul said, that we will accept the invitation to be in full partnership with God. We expect Jesus to show up once again this year in all God’s disguises and we hope that we recognize him in each other.
I say once again because every new year, whether church or secular, follows the last. Last year at this time we were gathering in our church building. We were lighting Advent candles in person with the choir singing an anthem to keep us on track and joy filled. We were collecting contributions to Adopt-a-Family and making a big pile of wrapped presents under our tree. We were already talking about looking forward to Christmas Eve and singing “Silent Night” as the church lights were turned down and candles lit, one by one. Last year on the first Sunday of Advent we accepted the invitation to live in partnership and thank God we did, because it turned out that the work of the year was, and still is, hard, and partnership was, and still is, needed.
That is why in this Advent season we are talking about stewardship giving as a partnership. I cannot say this often enough: we need each other for the long haul.
This year we are collecting money for Adopt-a-Family gift cards instead of wrapping presents. We don’t have a Christmas tree in our narthex entry area because for the most part we are not in our building. We are home. In fact our narthex looks pretty crowded because it is filled with the tables and signs that we need for our drive-up weekly community meal. There is also a table filled with books and other material that the parent/child playgroup is giving out to local families to help them keep learning while they, like we, are mostly home.
This year we have simple greens on our altar this year because simple is the word; simple waiting and praying on why and how and what we give and receive.
We don’t know where this year will take us. Thank God we do not know, as Mark says, the day or the hour or the way that God will invite us to answer the knock on our church door. If we knew, I think we would do the opposite of what we are asked to do today. We would crawl under the covers. But we don’t need to know much, we just need to wait in expectation and hope— and in peace, joy, and love.
I say hope and peace and joy and love because all four of these actions — not feelings but actions — form the circle of light that guides us through Advent and through our lives. It is true that the greatest of these is love, but without expectant hope, we would not be awake to greet love. Without peace, we would be too busy fighting each other to pay attention. And joy, well without joy, even love may dim.
So let us begin at the beginning again in expectation that we will accept the invitation to partner with Jesus in this great act of caring for our church and for the world. That we will walk hand-in-hand into whatever challenges and gifts we are given this year, that we will stay awake to see what the year has to bring. We don’t want to be found sleeping, do we? We want to be found alert and ready for who and what is coming into the world.
This week I found a prayer I want to share with you. It is a prayer about how our shaken hope and peace and love and joy is met in a victorious God who is coming again today in our partnerships, our unity, with Him.
From Thomas Merton:
“Oh, God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. Oh, God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, and we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes You witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen.”