Here with us - Hope
Mark 13:24-37

As we begin this advent season there are a couple of things that I’d like us to focus on.  The first is HOPE, that out of our brokenness, our sinful natures, we have been drawn into the light of Christ and made clean.  As you entered the church this morning you will have seen the display in the foyer.  It symbolises that we are broken, when we look into the broken mirror we see ourselves reflected in brokenness, but between us and our brokenness comes the light of Christ, to restore us.  The second thing I’d like to draw to your attention is the way that our brokenness draws us away from the message of Christ.

A couple of weeks ago I received an invite on facebook to join a group called Advent Conspiracy, not less than twenty minutes later I received an email from Jonathan Krause which also contained a link to a promotional video on the Advent Conspiracy website.  I hope you can watch it too by simply clicking on the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqqj1v-ZBU

I don’t know what you think but I think it’s a great concept.  What a great way to stay alert!  Yesterday as Terri and I were shopping for the elements to make up our visual display I felt almost physically sick as I encountered people spending up big on tinsel and plastic Father Christmases.  

Rather than focus on what we might get for Christmas, or what we should be giving to our friends and relatives, we could actually be caring for those who are in real need, for things that help them survive.  We could spend a little extra time with someone who is lonely or needs some help with their everyday life.

We could give gifts of grace like many have done through Australian Lutheran World Service this year, instead of chocolates or socks or ties.  The staff at Good Shepherd this year are giving money to ALWS instead of buying Kris Kringle gifts and are then going to give another staff member a card of encouragement and affirmation.  While some might not like this idea, I think it is a wonderful step forward and will help to shape the way we give as a whole community in the year or even years ahead.

Every year I become more and more disheartened by the push from retailers to spend up big on consumer items at Christmas.  The selling season and sales seem to get earlier and earlier, and have all but swallowed up the season of Advent.  We’re encouraged to begin preparing for Christmas at about the end of August (at least that’s what it feels like to me!) and by the time we get to Advent we’re over it all.

I remember as a child being excited when the advent wreath appeared in the sanctuary of the church, watching each week as the extra candle was lit, the excitement would be building.  We were practicing for the Christmas play that we would actually do on Christmas eve rather than a fortnight earlier,  it was time of building expectation and hope, week by week we drew closer, I would look forward to seeing all four candles alight, because that meant Christmas was really near!

Each week there was more light surrounding the wreath until we lit the tall white candle in the middle of the wreath, which reminded us that Jesus is with us.  It was Christmas, it was time, the whole build up, the ever increasing light brought us to Christmas.

That’s what I want for us this year, to focus on the coming of Christ the first time, and also remembering the hope that we have in his coming again of being alert, of being prepared, of knowing that we don’t know the day or the hour but knowing that we need to be ready.

And how are we made ready?  We are made ready by being in the presence of God, here with us.  Our hope exists because he is with us, he is here with us in his body and blood through the sacrament; he is with us in God’s Word, given for us.  He is here with us in his church, the body of Christ we are a part of that body of Christ.  We are god here in this world and through the way we live this Advent other people may see Christ in us an ever increasing light in us as we build up to this Christmas day, living as Christ in this world and letting others see Christ through us, knowing always that our hope is in him and knowing that when the time comes we are ready, because he has made us ready. 

Through his life and his death we are forgiven and therefore ready.  So we should daily remember our baptism where we received that forgiveness and walk in it, even though we are broken, we’re put together again through the light of Christ and through his life.

So as we begin this advent season, let’s do it remembering that it is through Christ that we are able to live in hope and rejoice in that hope!