12/2/01, Advent 1, year A

“First Light of Morning
Romans 13: 11-14

dvent signals the first light of a new day: The night is almost over, the Sun is about to pop up from the horizon. In this spirit our epistle lesson, on this first of four Sundays of preparation for the birth of God's Son, calls us to, "Wake up from our sleeping, and not lay about any longer, get dressed in the armor of Christ's light, do not waste these precious daylight hours. Live honorably by putting aside jealousy, quarreling, debauchery, negativeness and licentiousness. Dispel the power of darkness by walking anew in this brand new day." (see Romans 13: 11-14)

C. S. Lewis described his conversion, at age 31, as a time of waking up, "It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake." He had been driven, that bright sunny morning, to the Whipsnade Zoo in the sidecar of his brother Warnie's motorcycle. "When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did." (Surprised by Joy, 237)

So, the best way that we can prepare ourselves for Christmas is to allow Christ space in our souls. Otherwise, the lights will be wasted and Christmas will be just another dark day. We are people who will renew our deliberate decision to walk in the Light! The analogy of light points to the joy that we can become reflections of the Light of the Incarnate Christ. This Light of Heaven will illuminate our natural experiences and change them from penciled lines on flat paper to three dimensional reality. To act on the light that we have is the way to more light. As does a sunrise, new light casts out darkness.

Is there any human heart that is not attracted to the Light whenever they hear the story of how God stepped down the stairway with a baby in His arms? Everybody loves a baby! In a world of darkness, the Babe of Bethlehem comes bearing light and new life. The story of Christmas is needed this year more than ever.

Is there a human mind so closed that it cannot be enlightened by the wondrous story of God becoming a person in full identification with us? Indeed, the greatest minds down through the centuries have been the greatest minds open to know the Light. This is why nearly every great university has on its crest an image of the lamp of enlightenment and learning. The Gospel has borne the test of intellectual scrutiny in every generation. Christendom developed the whole idea of a liberal, free to investigate and scrutinize, form of Liberal Education. We do not hide from new thoughts and the investigative approach to science and discovery; indeed, we sponsor it and encourage it. At the end of the day the intelligent person will be awaiting another sunrise.

Christ's advent into time and hearts also brings hope. Christian hope is not the same thing as mere optimism. The optimistic person somehow feels that things will always turn out well. However, our hope knows that things will work out, regardless of how things happen. Indeed, things may not improve no matter how hard we work but we know that at the end of the day God will still be on the throne.

When we face our most uncertain times is when we pray the most. If life smoothly rolled along without a bump in the road, or occasional mishap, we would pray far less. In the wake of 9/11 we have needed prayer more than ever. Many Americans are praying this Christmas, perhaps more than ever. We are seeking understanding and meaning. People of good will all over the world are praying for an end to the madness of terrorism that has threatened to kill us all. We are praying for our troops on the front lines of that war, and for the leaders who are chasing those who would destroy us.

One day last week I watched a bit of England's national worship service of mourning for their 200+ victims of the Twin Towers attacks. The Archbishop of Canterbury brought a strong sermon saying the same things that Christian pastors have been preaching for the past twelve weeks. There is the Light of Christ that brings renewed Hope as we awake from our sleep and begin to walk in the Light. We are not a people without Hope. We have Hope that we will succeed in our efforts to bring peace on earth. Our Hope is greater this Christmas Season than it has been in many years. Adversity has brought out
the best in us.

Our new Light and Hope have brought a strong longing for Unity among us. Crime rates are way down and folks are working together for the good of society. You also may have heard this week that there have been more babies conceived than at any time since the end of WW II. This great wave of children will probably be called the "Twin Towers Boomers." What better time to have a whole flock of new babies than at Christmas!

"United We Stand!" is the theme of our 2002 Pledge Campaign and I hope that all of you have allowed yourselves to get caught up in this wonderful positive New Testament theme of our "Standing united together, side by side, not flinching or dodging, singular in vision for the sake of the Gospel." (see Phil. 1:27). Christmas is no time to be a loner or a "Scrooge." Christmas calls us out of our privacy into a world of chatter and children
where bells are ringing and angels are singing.

Finally, Advent means waiting, waiting for God to act. Although we already know the story of the Nativity, we are captured by the anticipation and are thrilled every Christmas Eve as that which we have awaited again for the umpteenth time comes home to us again. It's worth the waiting, this new light of a new day, this hope that defies hopelessness, unity too amid disharmony; really a disarming vision of brotherhood amid wartime. It's worth the wait!

"We can't afford to waste a minute, must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight... Don't loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!" (The Message).

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

12/2/01, Advent 1, year A