St. James’s Episcopal Church
December 2, 2012
Many of you know something about my yellow Lab, Boo. You’ve seen her around the office or when we have the blessing of the animals. I think Boo even made an appearance during a children’s homily on either Christmas Eve or Easter Day. In any case, Boo is now 10 years old and she’s showing her age. She’s been coming to work with me since she was 6 weeks old and she now moves up and down the steps of the parish house much more slowly than she used to. But she loves coming to the office everyday to hound the staff for dog treats. The only thing Boo enjoys more than going to work with me is going duck hunting. It’s what she was bread for and it is her passion. All I have to do is put a piece of camo clothing or my waders somewhere where she can see them and Boo will stay right by those items for days just hoping that at any minute we will be leaving to go after some ducks. Once, I piled up some gear in the dining room I was lending to a friend. Unfortunately, to Melissa’s chagrin, it took my friend a couple of days to come by and pick it up. For those two days Boo laid on top of my hunting jacket virtually refusing to move to do anything other than eat.
Sadly, Boo had her last hunt a couple of weeks ago. She made two good retrieves but it was obvious that the cold was too hard on her. She wanted nothing more than to go with me, but you could tell she was miserable. That’s a milestone for the two of us and one that made me sad. But on this first Sunday of Advent at the beginning of this season of waiting, this season of anticipation, I am so thankful for my Boo who always waited so patiently, tail wagging in joyful expectation for the next opportunity to chase the ducks and swim in the cold Pamunkey River. I guess you cold say that Boo is my Advent Dog.
Every year we talk about Advent as the season of waiting. For four Sundays the church proclaims that these days before Christmas are moments of preparation and expectation – a time to watch and wait. Often we hear that message as an exhortation not to sing Christmas carols too early or focus too much on the commercial stress of the season. But Advent isn’t just about taking it slow in the midst of this hectic season. Advent is about Joyful expectation for a time when God will come among us, for a day when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The waiting of Advent shouldn’t be like waiting we do in the doctor’s office when the minutes seem to drag by. The waiting of Advent is meant to be more like the waiting we knew as children when days before our family vacation to the beach we were so excited that we found it difficult to sleep, difficult to do anything but smile and think about the great adventure that was yet to come. Advent is not passive, anxious waiting; it is active, joyful preparation for the coming of Christ into a very troubled world. Advent is the season when we are supposed to smile more broadly than usual because the baby born in the manger promises us that in spite of all appearances, in spite of all the troubling headlines, God is with us and everything is going to be O.K.
We live in difficult days and we all know it. The economy is sluggish, unemployment is too high, politicians flirt with the so called fiscal cliff and the Middle East is in terrible turmoil. In the midst of all this the voices off division in our culture are so loud; the clouds of anxiety about the future are hovering so low and close that you can barely see your hand in front of your face. But the message of Advent is the reassurance that in spite of everything God intends to make the world right. In spite of everything, Christ is coming and the world won’t be like this forever. The message of Advent is that you and I who call ourselves Christians are supposed to never give up hope, never cease praying, and to wait with joyful expectation for this grand thing that is about to happen.
Sometime ago Archibishop Desmund Tutu made a speech in which he said: “You and I are made for goodness. You and I are creatures who are made for transcendence, are made for love, are made for caring, are made for embracing one another . . . although God looks down and sees all the ghastly things and God says . . . ‘whatever got into me to create that lot’? And then God sees the others, the ones who wipe the tears from the eyes of many, the ones who say they want to do something about poverty. . . and God begins to smile through the tears. And a little angel walks up to God and wipes tears from God’s eyes. And God says, ‘yes, they have vindicated me.’ Because you and I are ultimately made for goodness. And that is what is going to prevail.”
My brothers and sisters, during this season of Advent I want you to hear the message that although the waiting is sometimes long and our days are sometimes full of stress and anxiety, the waiting will not last forever. God is coming and all that God stands for will prevail in this mixed-up world of ours. You and I and all who follow Christ are called to be the people who more than any others live out of a sense of great hope and deep joy. We are called to remember that although we are surrounded by brokenness we were made for goodness. And even though, like an expectant mother, the great hope we wait to be born into our world seems so fragile and tenuous, in the end it will be that goodness which will last forever. So we must work while we wait. We must hope and love and lift up all that is good, and pure and true. We must struggle to do right when it seems so easy and convenient to do wrong. We must strive to mend relationships when it would be so easy to simply watch the gaps between us widen. We must love and care for the people God places in our path even though it seems that many others are bent on hate and destruction. We must believe it is always good to build and create things of beauty even when the news is full of so much that is ugly.
Yes, Advent is a period of time that last four weeks. But at a deeper level Advent is a state of faith not bound by time. It is a state of faith where we wait with a smile on our face, hope in our hearts and our hands outstretched. Because God has come in our past. God is with us in our present. And the great promise of this day is that God is coming in our future. Amen.