The First Sunday in Advent
December 2, 2007
Isaiah 2:1-5 Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14 St. Matthew 24:36-44
I have a confession to make. Many of you may not know this, but I’m a big fan of the “Big Brother” show, much to Father Emmanuel’s disappointment and embarrassment. The title of the eighth season was: “Expect the Unexpected.” And almost every week a new twist was revealed in the show to keep the contestants on their feet and always wondering what would happen next.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of weapons of war being turned into implements of harvest. That is unexpected! A modern day equivalent of this message might be more like turning tanks into tractors and rifles into rakes. An idea that I’m sure would not go down well in Congress or many other places. After all, everyone knows that these would not be the smart things to do in our current geo-political circumstances. Only a fool would contemplate this kind of action. One thing that this vision of Isaiah calls us to is looking in new ways at old things, trying to find the good out of the bad. We should always be ready to re-examine ways we have of doing things or of what we believe. You never know when you might find a new and even better way.
Expecting the unexpected is a good way to sum up both the lessons for today and the message of Advent. Advent is living out our expectations for Christmas. We have begun the countdown in eager anticipation, to the Christmas event. Of course, since year after year we know what will happen it is sometimes hard to maintain the excitement of anticipation.
But this year, perhaps we can try to rekindle that spirit of anticipation and expectation in our Advent season at St. Peter’s. One of the great advantages of having children in the parish is that I believe they help us older members understand in a fresh way what living in expectation of Christmas can be all about.
But there is a lesson for the church as well in the idea of transformation found in Isaiah. Perhaps it is time for us to look afresh at ourselves and some of our commonly held beliefs. It is well past time for Christians to put down the weapons they use against each other and turn them into opportunities to again share the Gospel, the good news of Jesus through love and fellowship.
What was the unexpected that happened on that first Christmas? God became human. God came as a helpless child. God came to die a horribly painful death. But the Christ child was supposed to be the Messiah. In Jesus’ own time he was not the messiah the Jewish people were expecting. Talk about getting the unexpected! They wanted a king who would lead them to victory and instead their messiah ended up being a servant giving up his life on a cross.
A well known Advent hymn prays: “Come thou long expected Jesus”. But if Jesus so surprised everyone in his first coming, how might we expect the unexpected in his second coming? No one knows how Jesus second coming will play out, although many are willing to make their guesses. My suspicion is that just like the first time, in the end we will find all the expectations and predictions to be wildly off the mark.
We can face the unexpected in one of two ways. We can fear it and attempt to avoid it or we can look forward to it and be ready to embrace it.
Expect the unexpected. What are our expectations for the coming year? What do we expect from God? What do we expect from each other?
St. Peter’s should expect the unexpected for the next year. We should pray for it. What is the unexpected? I don’t have any idea yet. But I know that seven years ago when I arrived at St. Peter’s I never expected to be where we are at today. And while I don’t want to speak for anyone else, I have a feeling that many who were here when I arrived would say the same thing. I’m hoping for great surprises for our wonderful parish family during this next year as well.
When we expect the unexpected we have to be ready for God to do anything in our life and in our parish. When we are blessed with the unexpected it can sometimes be uncomfortable for us. It can throw us off balance and affect us in many ways. It will challenge us to new growth. We have to be ready to face these potential effects of the unexpected head on.
How shall we live this life of expectation? Well it is truly a hard thing to plan for the unexpected. You never know what it is you should be planning for!
But I would suggest a few possibilities for us at St. Peter’s. We need to be willing to see the unexpected as a wonderful gift from God. That requires a willingness to set aside the fear that can often accompany dealing with the unexpected.
We need to be open to God working in new ways in our lives. God can and will surprise us if we are willing to follow wherever God leads us.
We need to pray for and anticipate God doing new and amazing things at St. Peter’s.
Then we will be ready for the amazing things God has in store for us this year.