THIS JUST IN : Advent 1
Apologies for the lateness and the gaps.. I have just been disorganised and distracted. This is our Priest in Charge's sermon from Advent Sunday.
Advent I – Year C
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
This Just In…
Jesus delivered the Six O’clock news:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
I can tell you that, as a former journalist and journalism professor, Jesus offers a very powerful lede.
Well, maybe it’s a little long for the opening sentence of a video package. As a student he might get a 3-point-5 out of a 4-point grade.
Still, it is compelling.
Let’s break that sentence, that lede down into its constituent parts.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars…”
Hmmm… Recently, large swaths of the Earth witnessed the longest partial lunar eclipse. Nothing particularly unusual about that – except it had not occurred in more than 500 years. Just sayin’.
Thinking extra terrestrially, two other items come into mind.
One – the odds of human-occupied space crafts hitting “space junk” are growing. That creates a perilous situation.
Two – the U.S. space agency NASA is making plans to fire a rocket at an asteroid to deflect its course.
The so-called DART mission is a test run should any asteroid be headed for a repeat of the crash 65-milllion years ago. That was the one that caused a global winter and took out the dinosaurs.
Okay. On to the next part of the sentence.
“There will be distress among the nations…”
Belarus and the EU. China and Taiwan. Russia and the US. Rwanda and the Central Africa Republic. France and Great Britain. Afghanistan internally and externally.
Those are simply the more obvious ones. There are lots of options from which to select.
To label it “distress among the nations” opens the door to understanding the huge human suffering that accompanies such distress.
It is an entry point for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Death, Destruction, Pestilence, and Famine.
There is evidence of it globally. Sometimes it is only one horseman. Sometimes the entire squad thunders in.
Next is the clause: “the roaring of the sea and the waves...”
Scant days ago more than 30 people died during their attempt to cross the sea from France to England.
In recent years, scores upon scores have attempted the hazardous journey from the northern coast of Africa to Europe. Many have died trying.
Jesus continued with his headline story.
“People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world…”
The rise of fascist groups in Europe. China’s president Xi positioning himself as a ruler for life. Russia’s Putin effectively doing the same. The American Trump encouraging division and spreading falsehoods. Brazil’s Bolsonaro jailing opposition leaders. Syria’s al-Assad bombing a portion of his country’s people.
And now, the news of a new Covid variant – omicron – that continues to relentlessly advance the disease. Already more than 5 million have died from the disease. Millions more face long-term and sometimes permanent effects.
Good people are worried. There is manifest “fear and foreboding” about what is coming upon the world.
These are not “Chicken Littles” scattering about and proclaiming that the sky is falling. Hardly.
There is genuine reason for concern. All is not well.
The final words of this newscast-leading sentence are these: “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
I suggest that what should be rightly ordered is, instead, out of balance.
Jesus, as always, doesn’t leave us hanging with terrible news. We are not subjected to sorting it out ourselves.
We are human and our powers to create the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth are frankly limited.
We need help.
That help comes in the second part of today’s gospel. It is echoed in the reading from Jeremiah and in the psalm.
Jeremiah reminds us that the Lord will see to justice and righteousness in the land.
The psalm is a reminder that we put our trust in God, asking that we not be humiliated – that our enemies not win.
God’s way is love and faithfulness. Evil will not prevail.
The message is this: Jesus offers us hope – and a plan – in understanding that we will know when the “kingdom of God is near.”
He also lays it out for us – don’t give up. Don’t slouch into fear and drunkenness. Don’t be all consumed by life’s worries. That’s a trap – a rabbit hole to avoid.
The counsel is to be alert. Pray for the strength to steer clear of the evils that can wither us and suck away our strength.
Stand up. Be firm. Raise our heads. Be alert at all times.
Follow what Jesus, the Son of Man, has given us to address the powers and the principalities.
If we faint from fear and foreboding, then we are giving into the darkness.
The Six O’clock newscast that began with dire warnings does not end there.
In this time of Advent, let us keep our eyes on the ultimate prize.
The love of God and God’s son Jesus Christ will guide us, guard us, and protect us in this world and the next.