Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Beatrice, Neb., celebrated the Third Sunday of Advent, Dec. 12, 2010.
+ + +
Luke 1:46b–55 (antiphon v. 47)
+ + +
Lord God, from your servant, Mary, we learn how to wait and to watch and listen with patience and faith for your Holy Spirit to move in our lives. Fill us with the grace to follow her example and to wait with patience; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
+ + +
How many words and phrases can we name
that remind of us speed?
Quick, instant, now, immediate,
just-in-time, ready-to-go, no prep,
swift, prompt, on-the-spot.
We have microwaves to zap our portable soup.
Deep in their circuits somewhere, our televisions are always “on,”
so that we don’t need to wait anymore for them to warm up.
We can get instant approval for new credit cards
while we’re standing in line to buy
microwave popcorn, frozen green beans,
pre-peeled carrots, and potato salad.
The morning after last month’s midterm elections
all of the talking heads, the pundits, and the wags
were speculating about the jockeying and hopefuls
for the 2012 presidential election.
The joke, that’s not far from true,
is that many people think that odd symbol
on the altar in churches,
the one that’s really iota-eta-sigma,
the first three letters of “Jesus” in Greek,
actually stands for one-hour-service.
That’s the goal, because as soon as we’re done here,
we can mark off worship on our checklists
and get on with tackling the pile of projects, errands,
events, gatherings, and sundry to-dos
that crowd our calendars
until the little boxes bulge from the sheer volume
of our frenzied and frantic schedules.
Or look at our country’s attempts to conduct
a thoughtful and reasoned debate about federal spending.
The political climate of poll-watching
and the instant feedback that office-holders get from their constituents
by e-mailing, texting, twittering, and telephoning
make it almost impossible, at least so far,
for us to look carefully at the ramifications of what we do today
in the lives of our children and grandchildren.
And so we hang on to our hodgepodge of policies and programs,
initiatives and incentives,
taxes and tariffs,
entitlements and equalizations.
As a people, we want results now,
and we’ll do just about anything to get that outcome,
without paying attention to the mess we bequeath to our children,
to the size of the hole we’re digging at this very moment.
Did you see the news article about Jaguar’s newest prototype?
It’s a car with turbine engines
that goes from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds.
What destination could be so important to reach so quickly?
All of the speed we crave, for some reason,
can leave us a little breathless and harried,
with our lives feeling full and stuffed,
but not in a good way.
Maybe it’s a little like that churning
we get in our guts when we’ve eaten
too much rich food,
dishes we know are not good for us,
but we put them away anyway.
And in many ways,
this time, of all seasons, is the worst part of the year.
Take the regular chaos we navigate almost daily,
and then throw in all of the preparations for Christmas—
the decorating, the parties, the shopping,
the wrapping, the cooking, and the traveling.
Who has time for much of anything?
It takes all we have in us just to show up,
maybe a little late, but at least we made the appearance.
At this point, you might be saying to yourself,
“Well, I’ve heard this sermon before.
Every pastor has this one in him or her.
I knew it. Eventually we were going to get
the ‘let’s put the true spirit of Christmas
back into the holidays’ sermon.’
They must keep this one in a file.
Well, you’re right.
Most every pastor has preached this sermon.
Probably more than once.
Most likely at least once in each parish he or she serves.
But the truth is that while the details may change
as the years go by and we refresh our cultural references,
the reason that we have all heard this message before
is simply because it’s true and we need to hear it.
It’s just natural for us,
every one of us,
you and me,
to want what we want and to want it now.
Immediately, no waiting.
That’s the reality of our human lives.
We cannot hide from this truth
and we cannot hide that truth from God.
He knows that we desire for our wants to be met,
that we want results now and satisfaction right away.
This is probably why Advent
as a liturgical season, as a devotional discipline,
as a time of waiting and preparing,
fights with the secular observances of the holidays
for our time and our attention.
It really is counter-cultural to say,
“Waiting and watching and wondering
are spiritual disciplines worth cultivating.”
But then, the Church is counter-cultural.
It lives under the lordship of Jesus Christ
and not the rule of the powers of this present time.
So listen, again, to the first part of that short reading
we heard from the epistle of James:
“Be patient, therefore, beloved,
until the coming of the Lord.
The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth,
being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.
You also must be patient.
Strengthen your hearts,
for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:7–8, NRSV)
Twice in just two verses
James says to the Church,
And between those times
he illustrates patience
with the little picture of the farmer
waiting for the crops to grow,
waiting for the rains to come,
waiting for the harvest to arrive in its time.
“Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.” (Isaiah 35:4, NRSV)
“A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way.” (Isaiah 35:8, NRSV)
“…sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isaiah 35:10, NRSV)
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:45b, NRSV)
“…for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:49, NRSV)
“He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.” (Luke 1:52, NRSV)
“Are you the one who is to come,
or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3b, NRSV)
“…the blind receive their sight, the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
and the poor have good news brought to them.” (Matthew 11:5, NRSV)
“For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven….” (Nicene Creed, LBW, p. 64)
“…this is my body, broken for you.” (Eucharistic Prayer IV, LBW MDE, p. 262)
“This is my blood poured out for you.” (Eucharistic Prayer IV, LBW MDE, p. 262)
“Go in peace. Serve the Lord.” (LBW, p. 74)
He is coming. He is coming soon.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!