11/27/05, Advent 1-B

“The Long Journey Home”
Mark 13: 32-37

appy New Year! You may think I am off my rocker--- maybe I have watched too many televised football games yesterday. No! It really is New Year’s Day on our Liturgical Calendar. Although our quartz watch won’t agree, in the Church’s ancient table of reckoning today is the first day of the season of Advent: the first day of the New Christian Year. Four weeks are set aside to prepare for Jesus’ birth. Advent is a time to pray, read our Bibles, and to wait on Christmas which is just twenty-seven days hence.

Remember how slow Christmas came when we were children? We have all used the term, “He’s as slow as Christmas.” As a child, we were ready ten weeks ago but Christmas was not ready for us. We had our Christmas list memorized and could tell anybody who asked that we wanted a Carolina blue bicycle with mud flaps and a horn, a set of Hopalong Cassidy cap pistols, and we were ready!

We even helped our Mother get ready by helping her shop, all the while reminding her of the blue bicycle, and where she might find one. We helped Dad cut the Christmas tree, which the whole family had part in decorating. Even our big brother would bring his date over to help get ready for another big Christmas.

There was always church stuff to do before Christmas. You suspicioned that it was trying to remind you of the true reason for the season, and it was not entirely lost on you. After all, you moved up from shepherd to wise man in the children’s nativity scene. The "wizo-men" had an actual speaking part--- "behold, we come bearing gifts of goldie, ‘frank-en-stine, and ‘myrtle." There was always the baby doll Jesus, and the pretty little girl playing Mary. I even got to be Joseph when I was older, and got to wear a black beard.

As we observed these weeks of preparation we knew how the story would unfold. We remembered from the prior year how God stepped down the stairway of heaven with a baby in his arms. By the time we began the first grade we could tell the story of the manger, and the cross, and the empty tomb. We knew that each person on earth could find salvation by looking back and knowing what God did for us in Christ. There was something wonder-filled in the entire story and we were drawn to it. We kind of grew up believing the story of salvation because our parents did and everybody else seemed to believe it too.

However, since childhood we have been on a long journey. We began to have doubts in high school when the teachers seemed to believe that the world had evolved without any intervention by God. It was an easy step from that to doubt of the story surrounding Christmas. We asked ourselves, “How can the death of one person save everybody else?” We were off in college on our journey and we joined in the chorus of doubt along with everybody else and we felt a lot less guilty at the frat parties. The only times we felt the old stirrings in our souls were when we were visiting back home and got caught into going to church. Somehow the old story felt comfortable when we sat in our old pew.

Our Journey picked up the pace after college and a new job and marriage and then a baby carriage. We lived in a different town and state and life seemed faster. T.V. Dinners and Instant Pudding and the slippery slope down the road seemed to carry us along. At times we longed for home and the faith of our childhood, but church didn’t seem the same anymore in the foreign land; and even the preachers seemed to be on the other side of the argument. Our spouse and kids seemed to be drifting along too; there were few moorings that we could tie onto. We felt lost and gradually realized we were.

Alone, in that way away lostness we caught a Christmas Carol. O, we had heard them all along but out of the silence came a song that shook our soul:

“There’s a song in the air! There’s a star in the sky!
There’s a mother’s deep prayer and a baby’s low cry!
In the light of that star lie the angels impearled,
and that song from afar has swept over the world.
Ay! We shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
And we greet in the cradle our Savior and King!”

And there “The Long Journey Home” ended for we realized that our true home, our moorings, are not wedded to a place but to a faith, an experience, that we have with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that cannot be limited by time and space. So, in that estranged and lost off place you felt the Advent, the coming of Christ into your heart, anew.

Advent points to a continuing story that is still unfolding and we do not know exactly how it will end. Yet, the promise of God is still true for us that as we look into the unknown future we can do so with confidence because we have His absolute promise of faithfulness.

We do not know how the ends will be tied up, but the truth is that as Advent people we look forward with faith in God’s promises that all will be well. Whatever happens, and whenever it happens, the Almighty will be there for us.

Every nativity play we have starred in and every Christmas Carol we have sung has made us prepared for this Advent and Christmas. So, we are not off our rocker and one cannot watch too much football, it must be in the Book someplace.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
11/27/05, Advent 1-B