Sermon by the Rt. Rev. Stephen T. Lane
I Advent ~ November 28, 2010
Saint Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church
It’s been my conviction since the earliest days of my ministry that we live in Advent times. My own call to follow Jesus was born out of a longing for peace, out of the fearful days of the nuclear arms race and the chaos of the Vietnam War. My nation at war has been the reality for easily half my 61 years. Our engagement in Afghanistan now constitutes the longest period of continuous combat operations in American history.
And that’s not all. So much of the promise of the modern era seems to lie in ruins. Whether it’s health care or education or home ownership or environmental conservation or the eradication of poverty and hunger, we seem to have fallen far short of our hopes. How we long for better days! How we long to be lifted out of the endless rancor of these days into God’s dream of peace and harmony for heaven and earth.
The same might be said of our personal lives. I don’t know anyone who isn’t wrestling with illness or anxiety. We lie awake at night and worry – about the dull ache in our abdomen or about our kids in Texas who don’t seem to have enough money or are getting a divorce or about our grandkids who aren’t doing all that well in school or are struggling with attention deficit disorder or are dabbling with drugs or about our jobs or our retirement. [James’ sudden and severe illness] The recent surge of illness and death in our diocese reminds us there is no refuge from the relentless uncertainty of the lives we lead or about the length of those lives.
We live in an Advent world and the purpose of the season of Advent is to put us in touch with our longing for a better world, our hope that we are not alone here in the universe, not abandoned to our own devices. As our Presiding Bishop said in her Advent message, the purpose of Advent is to get us to slow down enough that we can actually feel our longing, that we cease our incessant busy-ness long enough to uncover our desire for God.
Advent is a call to awaken from slumber, to rise from dreamless sleep, or from false dreams of wealth and fame, from the somnolence of consumerism and self-indulgence. It’s a cry to let our hearts see what matters, to behold the pain of our lives, to let ourselves feel it, and to cry out for rescue.
The dream of God for a world of peace, a world of justice, is, in truth, our secret dream. It’s the dream that inspires our hopes for relationships with friends and family, our hopes for Christmas gift giving and feasting, our hopes for a silent and holy night, for Christmas carols in the trenches and outposts of armies deployed across the globe.
Advent also invites us to consider our participation in the dream of God. We perceive at some very deep level that for God’s dream to be our dream we have to do something, to act, to take a part. That’s what accounts for the sudden burst of charity at this time of year. Even more deeply we understand that dreams of peace and justice must be our own if this sorry old world is to change. Peace and justice and all that they mean for the poor and the outcast are not matters of party politics – not planks in the platforms of Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians or Tea Partiers – but matters of God’s intention for our lives, God’s plan for each of us and for the whole cosmos.
Advent asks us to consider what is our own hope for this planet. Will we be voices for peace? Will we reach out to others and invite them to share the peace of Christ? Will we seek to be at peace in our own hearts? Will we seek justice and equity in our homes, in our families, in our towns, in our country? Will we live the dream of God?
So take some time. Slow down. Let the aches and pains of your lives into your consciousness. Let yourself dream a new tomorrow. Let yourself long for God. Because… God is on his way. The thief in the night is coming. The bridegroom is coming. The time of his arrival is uncertain, but he will come. And he seeks our longing hearts. Will you prepare your heart for his coming?