Well, it is so nice to be back with all of you this week after a week's vacation. As many of you know, Greg and I normally take our vacation this time of year before Advent and Christmas. We did not get to do that last year because of the pandemic. But you may remember a few years ago, Greg and I took a cruise. And when we came back from the cruise I told you about this young couple that we met on the cruise, and they were there on their “Babymoon.”
Now, have you ever heard this term before -- babymoon? That was the first time we had heard of it. A babymoon is a vacation that expectant parents take before their baby is born so they have a relaxing time together before their lives are going to totally change.
The young couple that we met were telling us about all the preparations that they had to make in order to get ready for this baby. So they were reading books and taking classes. They were baby-proofing the house, and they were getting the nursery ready. And throughout the preparations, they were saying how they were filled with great joy and expectation about this new birth and this new life that was on its way.
And I share that story with you again this year, because that really is the Advent story. That's what we're doing the next four Sundays. We're making preparations. We're preparing ourselves with great expectations for a new birth and a new life.
But whose birth are we actually preparing for -- the baby Jesus? I mean, wasn't the baby Jesus already born more than 2,000 years ago? You know, I think a lot of Christians think that Advent is just a few weeks of preparing a big birthday party for a baby that was born 2,000 years ago.
But Advent is so much more than that. Our friend, Father Richard Rohr, says that Advent is not a time of sentimental waiting for the baby Jesus. But rather, it's a time for us to put our focus with great expectation and anticipation on the coming of the Cosmic Christ within us. Father Rohr speaks a lot of the Cosmic Christ, and I spoke with you about this term a few months back.
The Cosmic Christ existed billions of years before Jesus of Nazareth was even born. When God created everything, when God birthed everything into existence, there was the Christ, the firstborn of all creation. Scripture says in the beginning was the Word. God said, Let there be light.
Now, 2,000 years ago, that word, that light, became flesh. A human, Jesus of Nazareth, discovered that light, that power of the cosmos, existed within him, he became one with the One. One With All That Is.
And after he made that discovery, he made it his mission to go out into the world, and to teach others the way, the way to the discovery of that same light within us. So what we're doing during Advent, is we are preparing, we are making way for the way, for the Son of man to be born in us.
Now, in the Gospel, reading for the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus speaks of the Son of Man not once, but three times to his apostles. And this is very confusing for us. Jesus says to them, be alert, be awake, prepare yourself, for the Son of Man is coming. Now think about it. Jesus is standing right in front of them. Why would he be telling them to prepare themselves for the arrival of the Son of Man? Well, because the Son of Man is not Jesus. I know that's very confusing because most of us growing up in the Christian church thought the Son of Man was Jesus. But it wouldn't make sense. Why would Jesus tell them to prepare themselves for the coming of the Son of Man if he was already there?
The Son of Man that Jesus is referring to is not himself. He's referring to the Christ, the Cosmic Christ. And he's saying to his apostles, be alert, prepare yourselves, because the coming of that light within you is on its way. Be alert, be ready for it with great expectation.
Now also, it's confusing for us, because growing up in the Christian church, we heard that Jesus was the only begotten Son. So we thought that that meant he was the only one, the only light. But the 13th century Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart said, everyone is the only begotten. He said, The Eternal God is forever begetting the only begotten. He said that in the 13th century, and that's why the church condemned him at the time. Now of course, he is a great saint. The eternal is forever begetting the Only Begotten.
That's what the season of advent is all about. we’re awaiting this awakening, this light becoming more and more alive in us. Now the 20th century Christian mystic, Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, said this about this time of Advent and Christmas, he said, “Events and images in Scripture symbolize inner experiences. Christmas is an important occasion, not just in the life of Jesus, but in our personal history. Through it, God awakens us to the Divine Light within ourselves. The stories and scriptures are symbolic of what happens within us.
That's what we're preparing for. We're not just having a birthday party for the baby Jesus. We're preparing for the light to be born within us.
So how do we prepare? How do we do this over the next four Sundays? Well, each and every day during the season of Advent, we need to do what that young couple on the cruise was doing.
We need to make preparations for this new birth. And this new life. They were reading books. We need to read books and do spiritual reading each day. They were baby-proofing their house, they were trying to keep dangers at bay. We need to keep those negative thoughts, that hopelessness that trends in our head, that negative thinking away. And they were preparing the nursery, the room for the baby. We need to take the next few weeks preparing our inner room. getting that ready. We do this through prayer and meditation. In the quiet in the silence each and every day. That's what we're doing. We're preparing room making room for the light to be born in us, the light of hope and peace and joy and love.
Now our words of integration and guidance this morning, which MaryBeth read so beautifully for us, comes from a book called Low: An Honest Advent Devotional. And if you're looking for a devotional during this Advent season, I would highly recommend this one. This was written by Reverend John Pavlovitz. Some of you may remember that back in 2018. John Pavlovitz stood right here where I'm standing. And he gave us a wonderful talk. And the talk was about turbulence.
Just what he wrote about in the book. The first Advent candle is about Hope. And many of us would say how can we find hope during this dark time in which we're living? And John Pavlovitz reminds us “Yes, turbulence is coming. Times are shaky.” It's what Jesus told the apostles in today's passage. But Advent, he says, is not a time of hopelessness. It's a time of hope.
And so, my friends, that's part of what our preparation is. When we're sitting in silence each day and that whole blessedness comes to us, we remind ourselves of what Scripture says, which is “A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. That's what we're putting our focus on for the next four Sundays.
So my friends do not despair. During this dark time in which we are living, the light is on its way, and that light is born in us. This Advent season, Let every heart prepare Him room.
Reverend Salvatore Sapienza
Words of Integration & Guidance
by 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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