Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent 2017

Dec 4, 2017

I love this one line from today’s first scripture reading:
Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we were mindful of you in our ways. 

In other words,
Catch me when I’m having a good day, Lord!

 In other words:
- Stop by when I’m not wasting time on foolish things.
- Give me a call when I can tell you
that I’m so busy helping the poor I haven’t got time to chat.
- Knock on my door
when I’m really paying loving attention to my family -
not yelling at someone because I’m tired or in a bad mood.
- Stop by my work place
when I’m saying something nice about a colleague,
not when I’m gossiping or talking behind someone’s back.
- Bump into me when I’m on my way next door
to help my neighbor – the one I really don’t like that much.
- Listen in on my conversation when I’m telling the truth,
speaking fairly, lifting someone’s spirits,
giving an ear to someone’s problems.
- Lord, stop by for some eggnog some night
when I’m really trying to remember
that Christmas is, first of all, all about you, Lord -and about you and me, Lord,
and about me and my neighbor near and far,and about this messed up world we live in –
and what we can and should do about it.

In other words, in Isaiah’s words:
Would that you might meet us doing right, Lord,
that we were mindful of you in all our ways.

Being a preacher in these weeks before Christmas
sometimes feels like shoveling sand against the tide,
a virtual tsunami of sights and sounds,
holly and hoopla, selling and spending,
desires and disappointments,
carols and cocktails, giving and getting
and hoping - and helplessness…

In the commercial world and even in the Christian imagination,
that jolly old fellow from the North Pole seems, every year,
to increase his favorability ratings
while the carpenter from Nazareth slips lower in the polls
- even on his birthday.

On the day after Christmas, when did you ever hear anyone ask: “Did Jesus come to your house?  Was Jesus good to you?
What did Jesus bring you?”

No one asks those questions. 

And so this preacher needs to stake out some high ground
between sounding like Scrooge on the one hand
and completely capitulating to Santa Claus on the other.
This preacher will stand on a word of Jesus in today’s gospel:
Watch!  Be watchful!
And I offer that word not so much as a warning or scare tactic,but rather as plea, as an invitation.

In this hurried, harried, holly-ed season:
- might we be as vigilant watching for Jesus
as children waiting for Santa Claus?
- might we watch for Jesus with the earnest seriousness
with which we watch the ups and downs of the stock market?
- might we watch for Jesus as a mother or father
wait and watch for a child to come home?
- might we watch for Jesus as people living in war watch for peace?
- might we watch for Jesus as carefully as we look
for that special, beloved face
in the crowd of passengers getting off the plane?
- might we watch for Jesus with the wonder and anticipation we know
when opening a gift found under the tree with our name on it?

- might we watch for Jesus with eyes wide open
as when we marvel at the beauty of Christmas lights
or the sparkle of moonlight on fresh fallen snow? 

Should we not watch for Jesus as if our lives and our love and our hope
depended entirely upon his arrival, his coming into our lives,
his gifts, his mercy, his desire to be with us?

I don’t know just when or how or how often
Jesus will come to you and me this Advent.
But we can be sure he’s not waiting until December 25th
to make his presence known and felt in our hearts and minds.

As the gospel told us, he might come
in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow or in the morning. He’ll probably come when we least expect him -he has a way of showing up without being announced.

Where will he come to meet us?

Based on his first appearance, as a newborn infant in the feed box of a barn in Bethlehem, my guess is that he’ll meet us in places where we least expect to meet him;

He has many faces and many voices and he calls no place, no nation his own  because all of creation is his and his love knows no boundaries.

So he’s likely to show up precisely when it’s not convenient for us to give him our time And it could be he’ll have the face of someone who annoys us, or someone we find difficult to accept, or a family member or a neighbor we’ve been trying to avoid. 

Jesus may show up in the life of someone we don’t even speak to. There are, of course, two places where you can always be sure to find Jesus coming to meet us: 

1) in the faces and needs of the poor 

2) here at this table where he comes to sit and sup with us, offering us the gift of his life in the Eucharist. 

Within moments he will come to this table, to sit and sup with us,
offering us the gift of his life in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Well… whenever he comes this Advent,
however he comes, wherever he comes,
may he find us doing right, and being mindful of him in all our ways.
What this preacher says to all  and to himself, is this:
Jesus is at hand... He draws near…  Watch!

He is coming - and he is already here. He is among us right nowand draws near to us at this altar. 

Watch!