Welcome to the season of Advent. This four week season that leads up to Christmas is known as a season of waiting.
For the most part, we don’t like to wait. We don’t like waiting in lines. We don’t like waiting in traffic. We don’t like waiting in a doctor’s office. And we certainly don’t like waiting for a vaccine.
We want things now. We want things yesterday.
The church recognizes the struggle we have with waiting and that’s why we have this important time on the church calendar. One of the things that helps me when I need to wait is to keep my focus on the reason why I’m waiting.
And there is a good reason why we are beginning this church season of waiting. We are invited to wait on the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. God is preparing to send us a very special gift and this gift is priceless and the most important gift we can ever receive. It’s a gift that can make an eternal difference in our lives.
This is why I am calling this new sermon series, “Wait for it!”
I got the inspiration for this sermon series title a couple of years ago when our family was on vacation down in South Carolina. We had just gone boating and it was approaching early evening.
After we docked the boat, we went inside the place where we were staying which was along the lake. The sun was just beginning to set so I went outside to see if it was picture worthy. There were some clouds and it didn’t look like there was going to be enough light for it to be one of those special sunsets.
Usually, I would have just gone back inside thinking that there might be another time to get a picture of a beautiful sunset. But it was like I could hear this voice saying to me, “Wait for it!”
It seemed like a waste of time because there just weren’t any beautiful sunset colors emerging at all. I decided to take a picture anyway. I looked at the photo and muttered to myself, “eh.” I quickly deleted it.
Wait for what? That photo wasn’t worthy of a facebook post!
But I waited anyway. A couple of minutes went by and a couple more.
And that’s when the miracle happened. Here’s the photo I took that evening.
That moment became more than just another picture of a beautiful sunset. That moment has always reminded me that our faith is about being willing to wait for the new thing that God is about to do. Even though we might not be able to see any hint of a breathtaking sunset emerging, if we just wait for it, we won’t be disappointed.
During these next four weeks in this season of Advent, we are going to look at four important ways that can help us to wait upon the heavenly gift that God is sending our way. Yeah, I know. It’s not even December. We just got done Thanksgiving. We know that Christmas is still weeks away. But I hope you and I hear a voice saying to us even now, “Wait for it!”
For this first Sunday of Advent, the scriptures that are appointed for this Sunday talk a lot about the importance of waiting.
In our Old Testament reading, the prophet Isaiah says, “no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.”
The Apostle Paul says in our I Corinthians reading, “that we are to wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Even after Christ came into the world, those early Christians were being instructed to continue to wait because Christ will come again.
And in our Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus himself tells his disciples, “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware. Keep alert, for you do not know when the time will come.
Our faith is a constant waiting upon the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. Whether we are waiting to celebrate Christmas or we are waiting for Jesus to return or we are waiting for an answer to prayer, or we are waiting to see how God will guide us through a challenging situation in our lives, and especially as we are waiting to make it through the global pandemic, we are always in a season of waiting. The good news is that God is faithful and will be present with us as we wait.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we are invited to wait for God’s presence through confessing. Confessing and waiting go hand in hand. That’s why today’s scriptures on waiting also talk about confessing our sins.
Just after the prophet Isaiah reminds us to wait on God, he reminds us of the sobering truth that we have all become like one who is unclean. So an important part of waiting is that we take some time to see where we have not lived out who God has called us to be.
To wait for it means to confess. And that can be a painful process. This is one of the reasons why our worship services always include a prayer of confession. Somewhere in these prayers, we can find ourselves and our need for God’s forgiving and healing love.
We are all broken and in need of mending. Isaiah says in our scripture passage that even our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
This past summer, we were painfully reminded of the sin of racism that permeates in our society. The killing of George Floyd in Minnesota where an officer choked him while being recorded sparked outrage and protests across our nation. I remember being so humbled by those events and taking time to reflect on any prejudicial and racist attitudes I might have in my own heart.
An African American political commentator made an important point during the protests that has stuck with me. He said that racism isn’t confined to one political party or demographic. It is something we all need to overcome. Everyone, which includes the white nationalist marching in Charlottesville all of the way to the person who outwardly says racism is wrong but in more subtle ways prejudges people simply because of their skin color.
As painful and uncomfortable as it is, we need a national spotlight to reveal the systemic and institutional racism that continues to exist in our world. We too often live in denial. That’s why we have liturgical seasons like Advent and Lent to give us the opportunity to look deep within our own souls in how we fall short in being the people that God has called us to be.
In addition to prejudice, we can also talk about the painful realities of greed, pride, jealousy, selfishness, judgmentalism, hypocrisy, mysogynistic attitudes, dishonesty, manipulative behavior, gossip, bullying, etc.
A lot of people use social media as a platform to point out the sins of others. But if we want to become the people God has called us to be, social media isn’t the place to go because for that we need to look within ourselves. And we do that by confessing, by repenting, and by receiving God’s grace.
Advent is a season to confess where we have not lived out who God has called us to be. It’s a season for us to come clean with who we are as painful as that might be. It’s a season to start anew.
When Penny or I complain that our smart phone or laptop isn’t working the way it should, we’ll complain to the other about it. And then the other person will say and you probably know these words, “Have you tried to reboot it?” And the other person will say, “Oh, that’s right.” And nine times out of ten, that will fix the problem.
Advent is a time for us to reboot our souls. And we reboot by confessing where we have fallen short. We reboot by owning up to our shortcomings. We reboot by taking a long and hard look at our own brokenness.
This is what Isaiah is calling upon us to do as we wait for Christmas. Reboot and repent. Turn away from our sins and turn toward God.
The next time you find yourself waiting for something, like in long grocery line, or during some 1-800 customer service phone call that has you on hold for what seems like forever, or at the dock of a lake waiting for the beautiful colors of a sunset to emerge over the water, that might be a good time to just say a little prayer of confession.
“O God, take my heart and make me new again.”
Save us, O God. Save us from indifference and impatience. Save us from the distractions of life. Save us from complacency. Save us from insensitivity. Save us from cruelty. Save us from selfishness. Save us from narrow-mindedness. Save us from political bickering. Save us from denial. Save us from name-calling. Save us from jealousy. Save us from revenge. Save us from lack of compassion. Save us from injustice. Save us from inequality. Save us from unholy thoughts and actions. Save us from sin. Save us, O God! Save us!
Leader: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
People: In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.
All: Thanks be to God!