1st Sunday of Advent
Reading: Luke 21:25-36
As we do every year we reach the first Sunday of Advent and I want us to focus our thoughts on light this year. As we normally do, each week, we will light the candle on the Advent wreath each one symbolising a different aspect of the season. Depending on the circumstances light can bring a feeling of thinking forward with excitement of what may lie ahead but the thought of light can also cause us some concern and worry. Over the next few weeks we will see more and more lights appearing in people’s houses as they are decorated with Christmas trees and gardens with all sort of Christmas ornaments. These are lights that make us smile and feel happy. But what about the stress when you get the tree and the baubles and tinsel out ready to bring some Christmas cheer and the first thing you do is plug in the lights and nothing. Zilch. Darkness. You have this continuous line of hundreds of bulbs and each year it seems as though a different one decides that it’s its turn not to work this year. Every one of them gets tested. Somebody explain this to me please. Why is the faulty one always the last bulb that you check? The other annual worry over lights is when your car goes in for its MOT test. You get that call your car is fine but it failed on one small thing this or that bulb is not working and will need replaced. Now we know the importance of lights working in the car so explain this to me. Why do car bulbs always seem to wait until MOT time before they fail? Oh the joy of lights. Oh the stress of lights not working. The reading from Luke’s Gospel can be quite challenging.
Look at the way Christ seems to be describing the end of the world. Listen to his words as they tell us where the signs will be seen. The first things mentioned are the things that we know as the great lights of the universe. ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars’. Before going on to mention with some vivid imagery how the nations on earth will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. It will be in those lights that change will happen first. Then those roaring seas and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Imagine the special effects needed to portray that scene on the silver screen.
Many of you will have heard over the years the scene painted with great enthusiasm from many pulpits.
I want to look upon it this year as a scene that invites us to see the light of God even when it looks dark and stormy all around us, for he is there in the midst, watching over and guiding us. I want to tell you a story I read the other day. It is about a wealthy man and his son whose love for fine art had them adding fine art treasures to their collection. Tragically war fell on the world and the son was called up, he died trying to save one of his colleagues. One Christmas morning the father was greeted at his door by a soldier. “I was a friend of your son. I was the one he was rescuing when he died.” The soldier said, “I’m an artist and I want to give you this.” It was a portrait of the old man’s son. Not a piece of genius, but in striking detail, it did feature the young man’s face and seemed to capture his personality. When the old man died his will stated all of the art works would be auctioned. The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list, the painting of the man’s son. The auctioneer asked for an opening bid.
The room was silent. From the back of the room someone callously called out, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the important paintings.” “No, we have to sell this one first. Now, who will take the son?” Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. “I knew the boy, I will bid.” “Will anyone go higher?” Silence then “Going once. Going twice. Gone.” Once more the room filled with anticipation. “Now we can get on with it!” Then there was stunned disbelief. The auction was over. “What do you mean it’s over? What about all of these paintings? The auctioneer explained, “It’s very simple. According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son… gets it all.” Sadly, it can also be true of those metaphorically gathered in the world’s great art sale auction room of Advent. Forget all this talk about waiting and anticipating. Stop all your talk about a Saviour and the light of the world. Let’s move on with the important things that need to be dealt with. In church this morning our opening hymn spells out the real important things that need to be dealt with. We are longing for light. We are longing for truth. We are longing for peace. We are longing for hope. Many are hungry and many still thirst. Many are homeless and many are cold. Together we the church become the living stones striving to make God’s Kingdom come. Christ be our light. Shine through the darkness. That is the truth of the Advent light. Whoever takes the Son gets it all. Is that not the essence of the story of Christmas?