SERMON: Dec. 3, 2023
‘Any Moment Now!’ Rev. Jane Courtright
Has anyone yet asked you, “Are you finished with your Christmas shopping yet?”
It’s been weeks since we saw the first Christmas decorations up
and holiday merchandise out stores!
Sometimes even BEFORE Halloween!!
So, it seems even more like Christmas is just around the corner!
We’d better get going / better hurry / better hustle!!!
Time is rushing on…Soon it will be too late….
HURRY, HURRY, HURRY!
Wait just a minute! Today is only the FIRST Sunday of Advent.
Christmas day is more than 3 weeks from now!
We’ve got PLENTY of time to prepare!
The birth of that hope & light shown in the Christmas story,
in the birth of a small, vulnerable baby.
So, I’m not really worried about your Christmas gifts
or Christmas cards or house decorating or plane tickets…
or all the other aspects of the secular celebration.
It’s a lot of fun,
but sometimes has little to do with the heart of Christmas
It may seem a rush to do all that surrounds Christmas festivities.
But for a SPIRITUAL celebration of Christmas,
you have plenty of time. So take a deep breath and relax!
The Gospel of Mark give us a good hint of the kind of mood
that we could have as spiritual people during this season of Advent.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus says: “Therefore, keep awake –
for you don’t know when the master of the house will come….
in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow or dawn.
The way Jesus describes the world in Mark….
is one in which NOTHING can be taken for granted.
God could be anywhere…& in anyone.
If you go to sleep for even 15 minutes,
you might miss the most important moment of your life!
Jesus continues, “And what I say to you, I say to ALL: KEEP AWAKE!”
The word for ‘keep awake’ by the way, is GREGOREITE.
It’s the same word that Jesus uses later on
in Mark in the Garden of Gethsemane when
he begs Peter, James & John to stay awake.
‘GREGOREITE!’ he says, STAY AWAKE! REMAIN CONSCIOUS!
As hard as it is, as long as it takes,
PLEASE DON’T GO TO SLEEP ON ME.”
Well, for those of us who LOVE to sleep, this is a VERY HARD saying!
G.K. Chesterton once said that sleep is one of the signs of trust in God.
I agree with him! I know that when I am trying hard to run the world
all by myself, I HAVE A HARD TIME SLEEPING.
I find myself waking up at 3:00 in the morning,
thinking about all the awful things that are going to happen
because I didn’t do things just right.
S’More, my cat will starve because I didn’t feed him,
My house will be burglarized because I didn’t lock a window.
The Worship service will be ruined,
all because of some obscure detail that I forgot to plan.
The longer the list, the longer I stay awake.
It’s only when I can let go the list
to the expected morning’s light of optimism
….ask myself, “How will this really seem in the morning?”
But I also know how sleepiness can work against people
who are up against problems that they don’t want to face.
When I was the Youth Director
at my home church in West Dundee,
there was a young high school student named Jenny.
She was a beautiful young woman, on the honor roll,
and involved in many activities in school.
I thought I knew quite well,
because she was involved in my high school Sunday school class
and youth group.
But one day, Jenny’s mother came to see me with a problem.
She said that all Jenny did anymore was to sleep.
And it was really hard to wake her up!
This was not like the Jenny we thought we knew!
The Drs. Found nothing physically wrong with her.
We finally discovered that Jenny felt that she could no longer
live up to the high expectations of her parents, the community,
even her own high expectations.
So, she simply went to sleep. It seemed the only safe alternative.
after help from family therapists, teachers & her parents,
did learn how to express herself and face her challenges.
So, there is THAT kind of sleep too…not a sign of trust,
but of terrible fear, so terrible that the mind just shuts down.
Sleep comes and the world just goes away.
There is no pain. Frequently, there are no dreams.
Finally, there is another kind of sleepiness that most of us
experience at times. It is the result of boredom.
You have a 10 hour flight, or a 6 hour drive or hours to wait in the ER,
a long, even 40 minute sermon to hear, or you wait all morning
for a repair person to come and fix your washing machine.
With so much time on your hands, it can lose its meaning.
It’s hard to say if the time passes slowly or quickly.
IT DOES BOTH. IT DOES NEITHER.
Even if you find other things to do while you wait, you still know
you are waiting for something YOU can’t MAKE happen,
or something You can’t rush…
and the sheer monotony can put you right to sleep!
I don’t know what kind of sleepiness
Jesus describes in our Gospel reading, but the message is clear:
GREGOREITE! STAY AWAKE! STAY CONSCIOUS!
As hard as it is, as long as it takes, don’t go to sleep.
None of us can ever know for sure what the future will bring
in our world full of pollution, greed, global hunger, failed truces,
hundreds, thousands of people killed in wars,
rumors of another World War, disease and more.
I must admit it: I often feel numb, like putting my head in the sand,
half conscious because of the state of our nation, the world these days.
Being asleep seems a lot easier than being afraid, or being bored,
or feeling helpless.
Let’s admit it:
Sometimes being asleep is a lot easier than being alive, PERIOD.
But Jesus insists: “WAKE UP!” even when his own death is near.
WAKE UP to whatever life is bringing you, as a person or a people.
WAKE UP to pain, if that’s what there is for you to wake up to,
because you can’t be healed until you admit that you hurt.
WAKE UP to the love you won’t let yourself have
because you’re afraid you’ll lose it.
WAKE UP to the future that makes you so angry and afraid
because it’s not the one you would order.
And while you’re at it, WAKE UP to the fact
that you are NOT in charge of the world, just a servant here
and a part of all the people of God.
WAKE UP, open your eyes to the joy
that God is present with you…within you.
It seems like a long time (more than 2,000 yrs. ago)
since God shone through the person of Jesus,
and sometimes it seems that it’s been a long time
since we have felt God’s presence.
But while human time is measured time,
which we feel we never have enough,
Kairos time which can happen at any time.
And there is always plenty of time for Kairos time!
On this first Sunday of Advent, Christmas is ahead of us,
challenging our agendas, our priorities, our goodwill,
and even our half -asleep faith.
Will God touch us again with a gift full of wonder and awe?
Can we discover the child within us,
with its tender trust & joyful hope?
Will we be open to be delighted by the surprising ways
in which God chooses to visit us?
KEEP ALERT! KEEP AWAKE!
For God can come to you at any moment! Amen.