the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father
be with us in the name of his son, our risen
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.
Back in the1970’s, the pop/rock group,
“Chicago” first asked us, “Does
anybody really know what time it is? Does
anybody really care? If so I can’t imagine
why, we’ve all got time enough to cry.”
Between people coming up to him to ask him
what time he had on his watch and walking
down the street being pushed and shoved by
people trying to beat the clock, the singer
obviously is a bit exasperated by the infatuation
that people seem to have with time.
Do you really know what time it is? No, I
don’t mean what time it is on your watch.
I mean what time it is, as in what season;
what is it that the conditions around us is
creating? We celebrated Thanksgiving last
week, and we have a little under a month until
Christmas. Many people take this entire time
to celebrate Christmas, and if you are like
me, you will attend more than one Christmas
party in the next couple of weeks. Christmas
music has been on the radio for the better
part of a month already, and decorations are
up all over town. It must be Christmastime.
Only, it isn’t yet! In our church, it
is the time which we call, “Advent.”
And it is the first Sunday of advent, so the
only sign that something is coming is the
wreath with one candle lit. The tree isn’t
up, nor are any of the other decorations.
You might have been disappointed to be greeted
by, “Wake, awake, For Night is Flying,”
instead of, “Hark the Herald Angels
Sing” as an opening hymn. And what about
that Gospel lesson, “About that day
and hour no one knows … keep awake therefore,
for you do not know on what day your Lord
is coming.” Yes we do – it’s
December 25th! That’s when it happens
But there is something deeper going on here,
and that is the reason why we don’t
rush into the time of Christmas before spending
a little time in Advent. It’s not like
Lent – it’s only four weeks instead
of six. And I’m not forcing the newer
translation of the Lord’s Prayer upon
you like during Lent. But it is an important
time when we are called to focus upon the
next coming of Jesus just as much as on the
first coming of Jesus.
Paul describes it pretty well to the Romans
in our second lesson this morning. He reminds
them that they know what time it is –
they are living in the advent of their lives,
between the first and second coming of Christ.
It is no longer nighttime. It is daytime.
It is time to wake up from sleep, lay aside
works of darkness, and live honorably, putting
on the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Paul
the answer of the question, “What time
is it?” is, “The dawn of Jesus’
presence among us.” Now, Paul had some
ideas about Jesus’ next coming –
he firmly believed that it would happen during
his earthly lifetime. As that time was coming
to a close, you can imagine that he and the
others around him were starting to wonder
– what time is it really? Should we
return to our old ways and lives? Maybe I
can hurry things along by selling my belongings
and quitting my job – would that prove
to God that I am “all in” on this
faith thing? What are we to do in this in-between
Paul says that we are to remember the wonderful
gift of salvation and relationship that we
have with God. It is nearer to us now than
when we became believers, so do not lose heart!
He says that we are to actively watch and
wait until the time of fulfillment comes.
And when is that? Well, Paul doesn’t
know. And according to Jesus, he doesn’t
know either. Nor do any angels – only
the Father knows. So, what does Jesus say
we should do during this time of actively
watching and waiting? Well, he shares a few
examples – he describes how in the days
of Noah, a time of ending was coming and people
just kept up their everyday lives until they
got swept away. He talks about two people
being in a field when the Son of Man comes,
and how one will be taken and the other left.
He talks about two women grinding meal and
the same thing happens. And finally, he warns
us to be like a homeowner who needs to keep
watch for the thief in the night. I don’t
know about you, but this is one of those times
when I just wish Jesus would have been a little
clearer on what we are to do than simply to
tell some parable-like stories about people!
So, what does it all mean? Why do we observe
Advent as a more than just an opportunity
to celebrate Christmas for an entire month
leading up to December 25th instead of the
twelve days following? Quite simply, it is
because we treat the coming of Jesus as a
three-fold event: History, mystery and majesty.
Jesus did come in history, and we Christians
are good at remembering that event with pageants
and carols and parties and food! Jesus also
comes in mystery – yes, somehow in God’s
divine wisdom we know that where two or three
are gathered in Jesus’ name, he is there
among us. And wherever people put on Jesus
Christ, as Paul puts it, and live honorably
together, Jesus is present. Jesus also will
come in majesty. One day – when, God
only knows – Jesus will return in all
of his fullness to bring peace and joy to
a world that longs for these things so dearly.
Advent is about Jesus’ coming in history,
mystery and majesty, and on this first Sunday
of Advent, we have scripture that actually
focuses more on the majestic return than the
Why do we do that? Why do we focus on that
“next” coming of Jesus in majesty
on the first Sunday of Advent? Quite simply,
it is because the work that Jesus began during
his first coming and appearance is not completed.
When we refer to the church as the body of
Christ, we confess that the mission of Jesus,
“to share God’s love so that all
of the world might be saved through him,”
continues through us, as frail and imperfect
as we may be! And the words of Paul and Jesus
this morning are there to remind us that actively
waiting for that next coming means to continue
in our witness to the first coming of Jesus
so that it may continue.
Does anybody really know what time it is?
Yes – it is the first Sunday of Advent.
It is the time of the mysterious presence
of Jesus Christ, when we prepare to celebrate
his historic appearance as we long for his
majestic appearance in some unknown future.
It is time to continue to eat and drink, marry
and have families, work in fields and offices,
guard our houses and love our neighbors until
the very time when we see Jesus return. And
as we do these things, we know that it is
also time to be the body of Christ so that
others may long for his majestic return as
well. Come Lord Jesus – Amen.