Christ Centered Church Resource Site

The Days Are Surely Coming ...

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Luke 21:25-36
Sun, December 3, 2000
Rev. Ed Searcy
Perhaps you’ve already been to see Hollywood’s newest seasonal
fare ... a celluloid version of Dr. Seuss’ “The Grinch Who Stole
Christmas”. I gather from my own personal movie reviewers
(namely Anneke, Adri & Matt) that it includes new scenes not
included in the original book In trying to imagine just what else
the Grinch might steal at Christmas it strikes me that this is what
some of you have been saying these past few years ... that the
Church somehow stole Christmas and replaced it with something
called ‘Advent’. Somehow the carols have moved from the church
to the malls. In place of Christmas readings in church we hear
stark texts of trouble and of repentance. Childhood memories of a
church bedecked with a Christmas tree are replaced with new
childhood memories for our children of the lighting of candles
and of waiting. In some ways the rediscovery of the rhythms of
the Christian Calendar marks the loss of Christmas as it has been
known among us.

The truth is that there is, ironically, no season in which it is more
difficult for Christians to practice Christian faith than during a
North American Christmas. Remember Rabbi Martin Cohen
musing on the difference between celebrating Hannukah and
Christmas in Canada. At least, he said, only Jews celebrate
Hannukah. That leaves it up to Jews to speak about what such a
practice entails and signifies. But this is not so for Christians. We
live in a culture in which everyone celebrates Christmas ... and in
which Christmas has become a feast of mixed messages. It is, said
Martin, as if we are celebrating the birth of the baby Santa
beneath a Christmas Tree. The birth of the Suffering Messiah has
been stolen by the Grinch of consumption and excess. The season
of glitter and of parties becomes for too many a dark time of
despondent despair ... a blue Christmas, indeed.

Which is precisely the place where Advent begins. This short
season of preparation for Christmas is marked by the colour
‘blue’. It tells the truth about the trouble which is all around. In
Advent we name our great need for a Saviour. Why sing ‘Joy to
the World’ with such force on Christmas Eve if we don’t need
really need a to know that “the Saviour reigns”? In Advent we
speak plainly the world’s blues before Christmas, not after. In
Advent we intend to keep clearly focussed on the promised child
in whom God’s Promises are kept. The ‘blue’ of Advent is not
only a marker of the blues that we sing ... it is also the colour of
the dawning sky, of the future that is on its way.

Jeremiah speaks to a people who have long since given up hope
on ever again seeing a leader the likes of King David. His line has
since produced only weaker and weaker leaders. Politics has
become a place for cynicism and despair. It is in such a time that
Jeremiah prophecies that:“The days are surely coming, says the
LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of
Israel ... In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous
branch to spring up for David”. It has been said that the God of
the Bible is not so much a ‘God above’ as a ‘God ahead’. As
people of the Bible we are, of necessity, a people of deep and
abiding hope. That is why we dare to be frank about the trouble
of the present. Because we rely on God for tomorrow we dare to
look at the seemingly hopeless truth about today. The newest
addition to our calendar of days is December 6th - the tragic
anniversary of the brutal murders of fourteen women students in
Montreal. It is a week in which, on your behalf, I will be walking
alongside Jennifer and Audrey Fell as they struggle to cope with
the outbreak of brutally violent murder in their own family. Last
Monday in Toronto, Jennifer’s brother - Audrey’s nephew -
attacked and killed his own mother in a psychotic rage. This is
what Advent speaks honestly about. It prepares the stage for
Christmas by naming the trouble that the world is in ... and by
clarifying just how much is at stake in the fulfilment of the
promises of God. We don’t need a Santa who will bring us a
stocking full of goodies. We need a Saviour who will save us from
the violence that we do to one another.

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on
the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the
sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of
what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens
will be shaken.” There was a time when we were embarrassed by
passages such as these in the Bible. Such ‘apocalyptic’ speech
seemed so wildly irrational, so pre-modern, so far from the
simple truths of the teachings of Jesus. But perhaps you have
noticed. Apocalyptic themes abound in our times. The great
drama of the end of time fascinates contemporary culture. A
world that has, on so many fronts, gained control over the forces
of the universe senses that things are, in truth, wildly out of
control. The earth rapidly overheats and we spend an entire
election campaign with barely a whisper from our leaders about
what is to be done. Beneath the rhetoric of prosperity there is a
deep sense of dread that the future is doomed.

But not here. Here we are being transformed by One whose
future is taking shape in our bodies and in our communal body.
We are coming to trust our bodies to the God who is out ahead of
us, the One who says: “Now when these things begin to take
place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is
drawing near.” Impossibly we come to see the trouble all around
as the labour pains of newness. In spite of the “roaring of the sea
and the waves” we glimpse the power of God to bring One who
can still the storm of chaos and walk on the water of trouble. We
no longer wait as if the end has been fated from the beginning, as
if there is nothing that can be done, as if the powers that be are
the powers that will always be. Now the children are our
teachers. They are the ones who teach us how to wait for the
Lord. They show us the eager face of expectant hope. They
remind us that the future is filled with promise. They model what
it is to be a people of hope and wonder and trust. They lead us to
the Christ who comes to us from tomorrow.