Are you concerned about Last Days? Advent 1

The Last Days

Today, is the First Sunday of Advent, the period of preparation for Christmas and the coming of the Christ child. But the dominant idea in today’s readings is the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. Does it not seem a bit strange that the church puts a gloomy prospect before our eyes as we prepare for a joyous event?

If you have been following the news at all this year you will know that according to some interpretation of the Mayan calendar December 21, 2012 is supposed to be the end of the world. Now we have heard this many times before and like the fire siren we heard at a Banff restaurant recently, everyone sits still, looks around and goes on with their life as normal ignoring the blaring noise.

This strange passage that most preachers ignore really does herald the beginning of Advent. Advent is meant to be a season of preparation

Advent is a frustrating time for most because we are childlike in our ability to wait. In mid-October while leaving my brother’s place in Ontario, he gave us our Christmas present. It sits all too close to our eyesight begging to be opened. The waiting is agonizing. Such a long to time wait.

Whether it is in line at the grocery store, buying a ticket or waiting for a parade, few of us have patience for very long.

But Advent is also a confusing time in our society.

We witness a parade like yesterday and celebrate Santa Clause. We put up lights. Now we seem to have adopted the American Black Friday and shop like there is no tomorrow. But Jesus saw things over 2000 years ago that we are beginning to see now. There is a difference between the coming of Christ in this Advent season and the coming of the Holiday season celebrated by the secular world.

And so, more importantly than ever Advent calls us to read the signs of the times and pay attention to our spiritual life.

And so Jesus asks….Are you ready for me to come to you and what will you do about it if I do?

I would like to invite you to look at three things as we truly prepare in this Advent season.

1. Take time to look at our relationship with God

2. Take time to step away from the worries of daily living

3. Take time to center ourselves spiritually

Take time to look at our relationship with God

Remember what Jesus said…. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

In other words, when the world seems to be overwhelming, lift your vision upward.

The world is indeed in chaos, especially in the land of Jesus birth. Israel is attacking the Palestinians, Syria is at civil war, Egypt is having mass protests again.

But here at home, we are drawn away from all things spiritual to that which is secular. I understand that people lined up for over two hours to get tickets to the Christmas community concert. Unless this community is different from others, Christmas concerts are not allowed to mention anything Christian or sing Christian songs.

How many would line up for 2 hours to get into a worship service, the community advent service tonight?

We need to take time away from the business of the world, most especially at this time of year to focus on our relationship with God.

2. Take time to step away from the worries of daily living

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life and that day catch you unexpectedly”

Georgina was the most empty person one could ever meet. She seemed to have no inner self, direction or authority. She just floated along, like a piece of paper on water, blown by every breeze and carried by every current. Her three elder sisters had married 1975, 1976 and 1977, respectively. She fell into the pattern and got married in 1978. Five years later she was childless but was not sure whether or not she should get medical help. Her husband Tony thought it would be a good idea but her grandmother had told her that doctors were no good in those things. She was not sure if she really wanted children or even that she loved Tony. Her sister advised her to take a job but her mother said she should not. She was without passion. She could not say that there was anything in life that she truly loved or hated. There was nothing about which she could rage or get angry. She had no opinion of her own on anything. So it was no surprise to hear that at a younger than normal age, Georgina got cancer and died. After all, what did she have to live for?

Mike was 45 when he got the big C. His oncologist gave him a 50/50 chance of total recovery after surgery and chemotherapy. But his psychologist gave him an 80/20 chance. His oncologist said that the outcome was not easily predictable. He was ever being surprised. Given two people who had apparently the same physical conditions, one would recover and the other would not. The psychologists seem to have a better record of accuracy in prediction. For them the person who could accept the reality honestly, and have hope, had a better chance of recovery. The psychologist knew that Mike had a very good chance because after he had listened to his doctor about his operation and further therapy, he had set up a game of golf for himself for the first reasonable date. He was looking to the future realistically, and with hope.

We do have choices and making an effort to step away from the worries of daily living is one of them. That does not mean that bad things will not happen, even at this time of year, but it means that with God’s vision we can have a more hopeful perspective on whatever happens to us.

Did Jesus know about 2012? How do many people celebrate this season? With drunkenness. I am not a party pooper but office or even Xmas home parties seem to be saturated with alcohol. Why else do we have so many extra police patrolling the highways at this time of year?

The fiscal cliff, the future of Rundle church, the health of our family, the waywardness of some , are all cause for worry but worry solves nothing and in fact demonstrates a lack of faith. So we are called in this Advent season to step away from worry and trust God who came to us once as a baby and will come again when the time is right.

3.Take time to center ourselves spiritually

“Be alert at all times ,praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place and to stand before the Son of Man”

Alertness has to do with keeping our perspective and not losing our identity by being absorbed in the world and with its values.

What does the world value and what does God value?

We have encouraged a generation of people to believe that ME FIRST is the right way to live. When Rick Warren opened his bestselling book, The Purpose Driven Life, with the words, “it’s not about you”, it was a shock to many people.

When Jesus was asked about the most important commandments, the answer was simple and straightforward….Love God…love your neighbour…

For the most part, we no longer know who God is anymore. Is God simply some higher power? Is Jesus equal to God? Is Buddha or Mohammad the one we should worship?

Do we even believe that we shall have to stand before God at the end of time?

Do we care about our neighbour?

I have been involved in Food Banks for a number of years as well as benevolent funds. It is easy to find a more generous spirit at this time of year but ,in my experience ,exceedingly difficult to raise funds or awareness of needs at other times of the year.

IS this really loving our neighbour or is it guilt or convenience?

Do we spend a regular percentage on others in need or do we give what is left over.

Advent is a time to center ourselves spiritually and ask…what does God want for my life, my church, my community, my neighbour, this world?

Sadly most of us have pushed the speed up button and given into society’s call to be busier at this time of year.

We are encouraged to take time to prepare, to be on watch, to serve other, have hope and find in this season, the real meaning of the Season, not just a baby in a manger but the SAAVIOUR for all.

Rev. Doug Powell is the minister at the Banff United Church, Rundle Memorial United. Learn more about our current activities, our Thrift Shop, and how to get married in Banff.