Friday, December 11, 2009

Coming and Going

Sermon: 3 Advent (13 December 2009)
(Zeph 3:14-20/Is 12:2-6/Phil 4:4-7/Luke 3:7-18)
Coming and Going

Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And blessed be his kingdom, now and for ever. Amen.

Following are the sermon notes for 3 Advent and not the full text. I hope
they are sufficient to point you in the same direction we will travel that day,
and I pray that the direction is a fruitful one for us all. May God grant
you a blessed Advent as you prepare the way for his coming.

Advent God and Advent Faith
Advent is a good name for the first season in the church year; it is a good description of our God and of our faith: Advent – coming. Our God is always on the move, always coming to us where we are. The notion that our God is distant and remote, that God is uninvolved and “stand-offish,” is strictly a non-Christian notion; that is neither our God nor our faith. Our God is always on the move, always coming to us where we are. Our God steps into history. Our God steps into creation as both Creator and – through the incarnation – part of creation. Our God is not afraid to get his hands dirty in the muck and mire of messy humanity. Our God is always on the move, always coming to us where we are – more often than not coming to us to rescue us from the mess we have made of things. We stand on the brink of the abyss of nonbeing (Athanasius, On the Incarnation), and our God comes to us there, comes to us to rescue us.

When our God comes to us, he comes to take us somewhere with him. Advent is both “coming and going.” God comes to us; we go with God. That is the consistent story that Scripture tells.

Abram in Ur of the Chaldees
Jacob in Haran;
Joseph in Egypt
Moses in Midian
Israel in Egypt
Israel in Assyria
Judah in Babylon

Our God is always on the move, coming to us where we are and taking us somewhere with him.

Where does God take us? God comes to us in our exile to lead us back to our true home; he comes to lead us back to himself. See Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Isaiah 12:2-6. Both are return-from-exile prophecies; God comes to us to take us home, to claim us again as his own. Advent is salvation: God on the move, God coming to us where we are in our exile and taking us with him to be with him.

All this coming and going is God’s initiative and not our own. But, we do have our own role to play in Advent. Coming and going requires having a road to travel. It is our Advent role to prepare the road. See Luke 3:1-6. The road by which God travels to come to us is filled with deep valleys, high mountains, crooked stretches, and rough ways. It is the path to our heart and we have failed to maintain it; so, there is much work to be done. This is where the Advent story becomes our story; we have a road to prepare into our hearts and lives, so that God might come to us where we are and take us to be with him.

What must we do to prepare the way for the Lord? What work is required?

Repentance (metanoia) – not just sorrow and not guilt, but a work that transforms our perception, a fundamental realignment to God’s truth and presence. Metanoia is work – hard work; it is the product of prayer, fasting, and obedience. It is a lifelong commitment.

Humility –“ God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pe 5:5). The falls of both Satan and man were caused by pride. Of all Advent virtues, the desert fathers valued humility most highly. See “It All Boils Down To This.” What is humility? See “Humility.” Pride is making yourself the subject of every thought sentence: “I want,” “I plan,” “I think,” “I will.” Humility is making yourself the object: “God wants for me,” “God’s plan for me,” “God reveals to me,” “God’s will for me.” Humility clears the biggest obstacle from the road: ourselves.

Joy – “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say rejoice” (Phil 4:4). Rejoicing is the proclamation that God is good, that we wish him to come to us, that we wish to go with him. See Ps 126. This is a perfect Advent psalm: God coming to us in our exile to take us home to be with him, along the way we have prepared through repentance, humility, and joy.

Let us pray.

Lord God Almighty, you come to us in grace, with power and great glory: Grant us true repentance, genuine humility, and abundant joy that we might make straight and level the path of you coming in the time of your advent; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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