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Preacher: Peter Collier QC, Vicar General of the Province of York and Cathedral Reader
Title of sermon: Advent Sunday 2021
Date/time/service: Sunday 28th November 2021 – 1st Sunday of Advent
Passage of scripture: Luke 21.25-36
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be pleasing to you, O lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen
Well, Storm Arwen has swept through, the days are shortening, and last week my garden was covered with a glorious carpet of leaves. As I get up each morning and look out on the world I know that Christmas is getting closer.
Perhaps if Jesus had spoken to the disciples in November rather than the spring he would have talked about falling leaves rather than sprouting ones. But his point would have been the same – look around you, see what is happening, take notice of the signs.
He told them about the signs he particularly wanted them to look out for, not what was happening in the garden, but what was happening in the world around them.
He spoke about cosmic changes that would make people afraid, he spoke about the powers of heaven being shaken. These words could be taken literally, but they could equally be seen as referring to some convulsion shaking the world whether political or something else. And, he says, it will make everyone fearful and worried, and some will even pass out because they will be so affected by it.
Then, says Jesus, then, when all that is happening, people will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Last Sunday, the Archbishop announced a royal visit which he said was going to take place. Perhaps like me it took you a little while before you realised what he was talking about. He told us that the royal visit was going to happen but in one sense had already happened. The kingdom of God which is going to come is already here among those of us who follow Jesus Christ and who are living his story.
Luke also has overlapping time frames in this chapter – some of the things Jesus speaks about he says will happen in the lifetime of those who are listening. He had spoken earlier in the chapter about the fall of Jerusalem, which some of his readers would witness. But some things will be at the end of time as we know it. Those first disciples would not see those things happen in their lifetimes. But we might, or we might not.
So Jesus said to them and this morning says to us – look around you – are there things that make you worried? – wars, famine, floods and other disasters? The pandemic which has had an unprecedented impact on the whole known world? And now there is the omicron variant. Will we ever see an end to it and to the huge impact it has had on the emotional and mental health and wellbeing of all of us. Anxiety and fear and that closely related emotion of anger have taken hold of us perhaps as never before. And we could add climate change into the mix with seemingly so little resolve on the part of key word leaders to do anything about it.
Jesus says that all these things that disturb us are signs – signs that he is coming soon.
So what? What response is he looking for?
Raise your heads! Be on guard! Be alert! Pray for strength! Is what he says
A few verses earlier Luke not only records Jesus talking about the fall of Jerusalem, but also saying that some of those listening to him will be persecuted, imprisoned, brought before kings and governors, betrayed by family and some will be put to death. In his follow up volume (Acts) Luke describes all those things happening to those who followed Jesus Christ.
And it was to prepare them for that that Jesus told them to Raise their heads! Be on guard! Be alert! Pray for strength!
And what of us at the start of this Advent season?
When Jesus spoke about the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory, those listening would have immediately thought of the prophet Daniel, and of Daniel’s vision of one like a son of man being given an everlasting kingship that would never be destroyed and of that time when all peoples, nations and languages would serve him.
Jesus is saying to his disciples that at the very end when God’s court of judgment is ready to proceed to final verdict and sentence, he will come with great power and glory and fully establish his kingdom, a kingdom for which there is real evidence and something of a foretaste now when we feed the poor, care for the sick, visit the prisoners and live Christ’s story.
So he says:
Raise your heads, lift them up, don’t be ashamed or afraid of being someone who is known as a follower of Jesus; Jesus the king, your king is coming and coming soon.
Be on guard, watch out, so that your hearts are not weighed down. When the anxiety or panic comes on us this week let us remember these words of Jesus.
Be alert, always be ready. It might be today; there might be no Advent Procession this year, because the King will have come. If I knew that that would be the case should I do anything different in the rest of today; no – In everything I do I am to live Christ’s story and that is all I need to do.
Pray for strength – we don’t know what lies ahead of us, but we do know that Jesus promised that he would be with us to the very end. Each day this week as each day every week he is with us alongside and by his spirit equipping and strengthening us to live for him. Prayer is simply us opening our lives to live in dialogue with him and draw on that strength.
So this week, we don’t know what the news will bring? But whatever may come our way, Jesus says to us – read the signs – because they will tell us that the King is coming, the royal visit is at hand – So – Raise your heads! Be on guard! Be alert! Pray for strength.
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