Christ Centered Resources

The Days Are Surely Coming ...

Rev. Ed Searcy

Luke 21:25-36, Jeremiah 33:14-16
University Hill United Church : Sun, December 3, 2000
Perhaps you’ve already been to see Hollywood’s newest seasonal fare ... a celluloid version of Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. I gather from my own personal movie reviewers (namely Anneke, Adri & Matt) that it includes new scenes not included in the original book In trying to imagine just what else the Grinch might steal at Christmas it strikes me that this is what some of you have been saying these past few years ... that the Church somehow stole Christmas and replaced it with something called ‘Advent’. Somehow the carols have moved from the church to the malls. In place of Christmas readings in church we hear stark texts of trouble and of repentance. Childhood memories of a church bedecked with a Christmas tree are replaced with new childhood memories for our children of the lighting of candles and of waiting. In some ways the rediscovery of the rhythms of the Christian Calendar marks the loss of Christmas as it has been known among us. The truth is that there is, ironically, no season in which it is more difficult for Christians to practice Christian faith than during a North American Christmas. Remember Rabbi Martin Cohen musing on the difference between celebrating Hannukah and Christmas in Canada. At least, he said, only Jews celebrate Hannukah. That leaves it up to Jews to speak about what such a practice entails and signifies. But this is not so for Christians. We live in a culture in which everyone celebrates Christmas ... and in which Christmas has become a feast of mixed messages. It is, said Martin, as if we are celebrating the birth of the baby Santa beneath a Christmas Tree. The birth of the Suffering Messiah has been stolen by the Grinch of consumption and excess. The season of glitter and of parties becomes for too many a dark time of despondent despair ... a blue Christmas, indeed. Which is precisely the place where Advent begins. This short season of preparation for Christmas is marked by the colour ‘blue’. It tells the truth about the trouble which is all around. In Advent we name our great need for a Saviour. Why sing ‘Joy to the World’ with such force on Christmas Eve if we don’t need really need a to know that “the Saviour reigns”? In Advent we speak plainly the world’s blues before Christmas, not after. In Advent we intend to keep clearly focussed on the promised child in whom God’s Promises are kept. The ‘blue’ of Advent is not only a marker of the blues that we sing ... it is also the colour of the dawning sky, of the future that is on its way. Jeremiah speaks to a people who have long since given up hope on ever again seeing a leader the likes of King David. His line has since produced only weaker and weaker leaders. Politics has become a place for cynicism and despair. It is in such a time that Jeremiah prophecies that:“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel ... In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David”. It has been said that the God of the Bible is not so much a ‘God above’ as a ‘God ahead’. As people of the Bible we are, of necessity, a people of deep and abiding hope. That is why we dare to be frank about the trouble of the present. Because we rely on God for tomorrow we dare to look at the seemingly hopeless truth about today. The newest addition to our calendar of days is December 6th - the tragic anniversary of the brutal murders of fourteen women students in Montreal. It is a week in which, on your behalf, I will be walking alongside Jennifer and Audrey Fell as they struggle to cope with the outbreak of brutally violent murder in their own family. Last Monday in Toronto, Jennifer’s brother - Audrey’s nephew - attacked and killed his own mother in a psychotic rage. This is what Advent speaks honestly about. It prepares the stage for Christmas by naming the trouble that the world is in ... and by clarifying just how much is at stake in the fulfilment of the promises of God. We don’t need a Santa who will bring us a stocking full of goodies. We need a Saviour who will save us from the violence that we do to one another. “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 faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” There was a time when we were embarrassed by passages such as these in the Bible. Such ‘apocalyptic’ speech seemed so wildly irrational, so pre-modern, so far from the simple truths of the teachings of Jesus. But perhaps you have noticed. Apocalyptic themes abound in our times. The great drama of the end of time fascinates contemporary culture. A world that has, on so many fronts, gained control over the forces of the universe senses that things are, in truth, wildly out of control. The earth rapidly overheats and we spend an entire election campaign with barely a whisper from our leaders about what is to be done. Beneath the rhetoric of prosperity there is a deep sense of dread that the future is doomed. But not here. Here we are being transformed by One whose future is taking shape in our bodies and in our communal body. We are coming to trust our bodies to the God who is out ahead of us, the One who says: “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Impossibly we come to see the trouble all around as the labour pains of newness. In spite of the “roaring of the sea and the waves” we glimpse the power of God to bring One who can still the storm of chaos and walk on the water of trouble. We no longer wait as if the end has been fated from the beginning, as if there is nothing that can be done, as if the powers that be are the powers that will always be. Now the children are our teachers. They are the ones who teach us how to wait for the Lord. They show us the eager face of expectant hope. They remind us that the future is filled with promise. They model what it is to be a people of hope and wonder and trust. They lead us to the Christ who comes to us from tomorrow.