By Pastor Michael Cofer
First Sunday in Advent
Today marks the beginning of Advent, the beginning of a new year. It’s a time of preparation for Christmas – and perhaps preparation for Immanuel to come to us as well.
As the day approaches, you can see its signs everywhere you look. Each day is a little shorter than the one before, a little darker, a little colder as the Earth itself awaits the arrival of Christmas so that it can brighten and warm and gladden once more.
Evergreens are springing up in people’s living rooms, adorned in silver and gold and twinkling lights. Shoppers are bustling in the malls or check Amazon on their phone every few minutes. Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby millions who recognize their voices but not their faces. The smell of gingerbread is on the rise and pumpkin spice is in decline.
Even if you had been asleep for months, you could tell that Christmas is on the way. You simply need to read the signs all around.
As we begin the marathon sprint toward Christmas, let’s not waste the season. Let’s get the most out of it. Our Advent celebration will focus on three calls to action: Watch, Prepare, Rejoice.
And so, today we heed the call to Watch. You know, Watching is completely different than searching. To search, you have to know what you’re looking for. In fact, if what you’re searching for is different than you expect it to be, you’ll likely miss it. And whether it is found depends on the skill and effort of the one who searches.
Not so with Jesus. We don’t go find Him. He comes to us. He seeks us. When we talk about Jesus as “Immanuel” – God with Us – He’s with us because He came to be with us.
Watching can be hard. It can try our patience. You ever have a repairman scheduled to come by the house. “Between 2 and 5” they say. So you’re ready for them at 1:55 – waiting anxiously for the repairman. At the stroke of 2 you peak out the window. Nope. Not yet. 2:30. 3:00. Every car door you hear slam you scurry to the window to see if it’s him. 4:45. 4:50. And you’re starting to worry they aren’t going to get to you today.
But hopping in your car and driving around looking for their truck won’t change a thing… in fact, leaving your post means you might miss him when he does arrive. You must simply trust that he’s on the way, and keep your eyes open to receive him when he comes. And when he does arrive, you are relieved and even joyful because you know he’s going to fix what has been broken.
Watching is fundamentally an act of faith. You don’t watch if you don’t expect anything to happen – especially these days. Our attention spans are shrinking and when we expect nothing to happen we will turn our focus elsewhere. But if you know something is about to happen – something good you don’t want to miss – it’s much easier to shut out the distractions and focus.
You know… there are some phrases that catch your attention because they’re a sign of what’s to come. If someone says, “guess what!” you know they have some news to share. If someone says “Heads up!” you know something is hurtling through the air at your face. And if someone says, “Watch this!” you should probably have the ambulance on speed dial… because they are about to attempt something amazing. And in my experience, it isn’t usually amazing, and more of often than not it teeters on stupid.
But when God says, “Watch this!” you can be sure it will be amazing. You can be sure that it will exceed your expectations… and you’ll probably walk away surprised, a little confused, and very very impressed.
So to the prophets of old, God said, “Watch this! I’m going to send my very Son. Watch! He’s going to be so gentle and humble – but in Him will dwell the fullness of my Power and Glory. Watch! The King of Kings will be poor and homeless and rejected by his own people, but His love for them will never fail. Watch! With one single sacrifice, I will break the powers of sin, death, and the devil. Watch this!”
We’ve seen Him do it, and it is amazing. Even to this day, 2,000 years later, it’s still impressive, confusing, and wonderful.
But let’s not be mistaken. God is still saying “Watch this!” Just because Jesus’ saving work is complete, that doesn’t mean God retired! Far from it! He is still moving, still speaking, still amazing – if we are still watching.
As we watch for the return of Jesus, let’s also watch what God is doing among us. Last week we talked about the return of Jesus – which could be any minute now. And it will happen exactly when God has made everything ready for that coming.
That means that HE is very busy even now. Changing hearts. Saving souls. Healing, forgiving, renewing, leading, calling, speaking… and if we don’t Watch, we may miss it. If we expect that God will be quiet and still, then surely we won’t see what He is doing – we’ll turn our attention somewhere else.
But if we do expect that God is alive and moving – if we Watch – He will continue to amaze us.
This Advent, let us Watch what He has done, what He is doing, and for what He is about to do when Christ returns to make all things new.