Sunday, November 27, 2016 - First Sunday of Advent

Advent 2016

"No Ear May Hear His Coming"

Our tendency sometimes is to think of Advent as simply getting ready for Christmas. And yet, Advent is a season in itself with its own sequence and its own message. Advent announces the coming of the Lord, but that is not the same as simply saying that Christmas is coming.

The Gospel lesson for today is usually understood to point to Jesus' Second Advent, not his First. Matthew 24:36-44 provides us with two strong words from Jesus concerning the coming of the Lord. The first has to do with the uncertainty of its timing and the second with the way believers are to live in light of that uncertainty. Jesus told his disciples that neither the angels nor the son knows the time of the Lord's appearing. And because it is an unknown, Jesus said that we are to live a certain way: we are to be prepared, to watch and listen, and to stay ready.

My friend George Kiraz is the ecumenical affairs officer for the Syrian Orthodox Church. When we first met, I asked George where he had been born, and he surprised me by saying: "Bethlehem." I can't imagine that my friend's birth there was anticipated any more or less than was the birth of Jesus. Of course, George's parents must have waited expectantly, as did Mary and Joseph, but the rest of the town must have gone about their normal daily lives. The religious leaders in Jesus' day perhaps had their own notions of how and when the Messiah was to arrive, and perhaps that minimized their recognition of what God was doing in and through the humble birth of Jesus.

There are four full weeks ahead of us now before we arrive at Christmas Day. You may already be filled to overflowing with a sense of Advent hope and expectation. But will you hear the sound of his coming this year? That is not an easy thing for any of us to accomplish, especially so amid the fury and distractions of the culture in which we live. There will be crowds of people, parties to attend, presents to buy, and plenty of noise. How well can you hear over all that? One thing scripture says is that it is terribly easy to miss the Messiah because we end up paying too much attention to other things. It is quite possible not to hear him when Christ comes.

No ear would hear his coming that first Christmas. And so he came in a quiet life. Jesus entered human history for you and for me. He came for all the world. Thanks be to God.

-- John Finley

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