While some of you may remember a few years ago, before the COVID pandemic, Greg and I were not here on the first Sunday of Advent – we were on a cruise. And you may remember when we came back from the cruise I told you about a young couple we met who were on the cruise celebrating their babymoon. Now, I had never heard the term “babymoon” before. It's not a honeymoon. A babymoon is when expectant parents take a vacation together before the birth of their child, so they can enjoy some alone time, because they know once that baby is born, they are their lives are going to be turned upside down.
And the young couple on their babymoon told us about all the preparations they had to make, as they awaited the arrival of their baby. So they had to take Lamaze classes and read books and babyproof their house. They needed to assemble the crib and put together the nursery. So much preparation!
And as first-time parents, they had a little bit of trepidation and anxiety. But they certainly were waiting with great joy and anticipation and expectation of this new life that was on its way. And what really stayed with me since then, is that a babymoon is a really perfect way to explain the season of Advent, because that's what we're doing in Advent – we're making preparations over these four weeks. That's what we're supposed to be doing each day. We're supposed to be preparing, with great anticipation and expectation, of the new life that's on its way.
But what exactly does that mean? The new life that's on its way the baby Jesus, is going to come? I mean, that already happened 2,000 years ago. So what are we preparing ourselves for?
Well, I shared a quote on Facebook this week from Father Richard Rohr, our friend, and the best-selling progressive Christian author. He says, “Advent is not a time of sentimental waiting for the baby Jesus. Advent is a time for putting our focus and attention on the coming of the Cosmic Christ.”
That's why our focus is on the star, the cosmos. Now, if you were here last Sunday, you know that was our scripture reading from the Bible. It said, Christ is the firstborn of all of creation, 15 billion years ago. When God birthed everything into existence at the Big Bang, there was the Christ. Now, Scripture tells us, in the beginning, was the Word. God said, “Let there be light,” 15 billion years ago, but 2,000 years ago, that Word that Light took on human form, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He became one with the One, capital O. One with all that is One with the cosmos. And he came to tell us that we could do it too. He came to show us the way. So my friends, that's what we're doing during the season of Advent. We're making way for the Way, for the Way of the Christ for the birth of the light to take place within us. We are awaiting the arrival of the Son of Man, which we heard about in today's scripture reading for the first Sunday of Advent. Jesus talks about this son of man, Son of God, only begotten Son, three times in this passage, and I know that that's confusing. It's confusing for Jesus to be standing there in front of his disciples saying, Get ready. Make way. Prepare yourself for the coming of the Son of Man. If he's standing there in front of them. He already came. What is he talking about? Well, Jesus is not talking as Jesus of Nazareth. He's speaking to them from his Christ consciousness. And he's explaining to them get ready, I'm gonna be gone. But get ready, because the coming of the Christ is going to happen at an unexpected hour.
And guess what he did? You remember the Pentecost story. After Jesus died, his disciples were gathered together. And they had an awakening – tongues of fire appeared above their heads, they were filled with light with this Christ. And then Scripture tells us that they went out and they were able to heal and perform miracles just as Jesus did.
Now, I know this is confusing because most of us who grew up in the Christian church, we were taught that Jesus was the only one, the only begotten son. But the only begotten Son, my friends is the Christ.
Meister Eckhart was a 13th century Christian mystic. He said, “The eternal is forever begetting the Only Begotten.” Now, Meister Eckhart was branded a heretic and was silenced by the church for saying that. But that's what Advent is about. We are to be giving birth to the light that is within us.
Now, those of you who took part in our October book read, you know, that we were reading in our book a lot about Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton was the Trappist monk, the 20th century, Christian mystic. And he said this, “Events and images in Scripture symbolize inner experiences” Christmas is therefore, an important occasion, not just in the life of Jesus, but in our personal lives. Through it, God awakens us to the divine life within ourselves.
That's what we're doing during Advent, we're awakening to the divine life that is within us. It is a way for us to participate in the Incarnation, for ourselves. Just as God was born in Jesus, God is also born in us. That's what we're supposed to be doing, these next four weeks. We are not just throwing a birthday party for Jesus. I know that's how we explain Advent to little children in Sunday school, we say we're putting up lights and decorations. We're throwing a birthday party for the baby. And that's lovely. But we're not children anymore. We're adults. And as we grow, we need to grow in our spiritual understanding of what Advent, what Christmas, is really all about. Yes, of course, Jesus is worthy of our praise and adoration. Of course, we should be celebrating his birthday. But so many Christians today, the purpose of their faith, it seems, is worshiping and praising the one guy who did it, rather than following in his steps, which is what He wanted. Look at the Gospels. Jesus didn't stand there going. ‘I am the Son of God, I am the light of the world.’ Do you know what he said? He said, “You are sons and daughters of God.” And he said, “You are the light of the world.” And then he said, “All of the things that I have done, you can do.” And then he added, “... these things, and greater.” Jesus was telling us we are the Light. We are the sons and daughters. We can do these great things, even greater than him.
That's what we're supposed to be doing in Advent – waiting for these greater things to be made manifest in us, waiting for the light of the Christ to happen in us in an unexpected hour. And that's why we light candles.
So the first candle we light is for Hope. And I love that that's the first one. We're living at a time where many people are hopeless. And maybe rightfully so. You look at the division in our country, you you look at mass shootings, you look at climate change, it seems hopeless. But do you understand that our calling as Christians is to be the light during a time of darkness. Scripture says the people who are living in darkness have seen a great light that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. We my friends are called to be the the light-workers if you will, the lamp-lighters, the Way-showers in this time of darkness. We are to be hope for the hopeless. And I know that I am so grateful in my own life, when I lived through times of darkness and hopelessness and despair. There were people who surrounded me, who were people of light, and they reminded me of my own light. That's what we are supposed to be doing in this week where we focus on Hope. And so my friends as we begin this Advent season together, this season of light, let us prepare ourselves. Let us make way for the Way, the arrival. That's what Advent means. The arrival, the coming, of this light. This light is on its way. It is with us and within us. Let every heart prepare Him room.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration and Guidance
Rev. John Pavlovitz from his book, “Low: An Honest Advent Devotional”
Recently, I was on a flight to Albuquerque, New Mexico, when the captain announced, “Please fasten your seatbelts, because it may get a little choppy.” “Choppy” is captain-speak for “we’re about to get shaken.” The captain was telling us matter-of-factly, “Hold on. Prepare yourselves. Turbulence is coming.” This should be familiar territory for us, as it was for the first disciples. As Jesus was preparing his students for his physical absence, he says to them (and to us), “In this world, you will have trouble.” In other words, “Hold on. Prepare yourselves. Turbulence is coming.” But Jesus reminds us that we should not be shaken into hopelessness. He, much like the pilot of my plane, is not overwhelmed, because he has the threat right-sided. We can do the same. The question isn’t whether we will be placed in the storms, but rather, how much of the turbulence we will allow to be placed within us. When we find ourselves in these storms or circumstances or troubling thoughts, we can rest in the knowledge that the things that cause our shaking, in the eyes of a God who sees and loves and accompanies us – are nothing more than a little “chop.” Yes, turbulence is coming, but be not afraid. Advent is a time of hope, not hopelessness, so may hope trend in your head and reign in your heart this Advent season.
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