Saturday, November 30, 2019

Advent 1 sermon (if the snow lets me preach it)

Advent I 2019-Emmanuel, Killingworth

                   “Hello Darkness, my old friend,
                   I’ve come to talk with you again.
                   Because a vision softly creeping,
                   left its seeds while I was sleeping,
                   and the vision that was planted in my brain
                   still remains—within the sounds of silence.”
                                      --Simon and Garfunkle

          If you are of a certain age—oh, like mine, for example—the words of that song may act like a memory magnet. Of course, if you remember the 60’s and 70’s you weren’t really having a good time….

          But as I’ve thought about today’s readings and about the beginning of Advent, that song kept appearing and reappearing in my mind and heart.

          Advent is a time of “darkness”, a time of “visions”, a time of “sleeping” and a time of “silence”.
          Each day of Advent has less light than the day before. Each day is only a few minutes darker—but by the time Advent is ending the effect is startling. As we wait for the Christchild we are waiting in the darkest time of the year. And Darkness—for all the fear it brings—can be a dear and valuable friend.

          Advent is a time chock full of “visions”.  Isaiah, in today’s reading, sees a vision of the new Jerusalem descending to the mountain of the Lord. He sees visions of peace and visions of the end of war. He sees visions of a time of unity among all nations and a time of learning to walk God’s path and not our own—a time of walking in the Light….
          Paul’s vision in Romans is the vision of LOVE replacing the LAW—a vision of compassion and caring for the well being of others taking away the need for rules and regulations. Paul’s vision is one of walking in the Light….
          Then there is Jesus’ “vision” from Matthew’s gospel—a vision of the coming of the Son of Man. It is a vision of sudden judgment and sure distress—and yet, even in that vision, God comes to gather the children at an unexpected time….

          Advent is a time of darkness and visions and sleeping.
          The earth is falling asleep. The trees are bare, the flowers are dead, the animals are nesting and the ground is freezing. The air chills us and the moon and stars shine brightly, larger than usual, in the cold sky. It is a time to sleep through the long night and dream of the Light.
          Advent is a time of silence. Think about it. The insects are asleep. Many of the birds are gone. Night comes quickly and stays long so many of the sounds of the day go missing early. And, it seems to me at least, the cold, heavy air muffles the sounds that are left. Silence, like a blanket, falls over us during Advent.
          Human beings are not creatures that appreciate silence and darkness. We long for light and sound. Advent tends to make us anxious. No one likes to “wait”—and Advent is all about “waiting”—and most of us fear the dark and fill our lives with noises. So Advent…a time of “waiting” in the darkness and the silence…well, it is problematic for most of us most of the time.

          And there is this: it is in darkness that we discover the secret places of our soul and it is in silence that we begin to hear the voice of God. Darkness and silence force us to “be alone”—and in that “loneliness” we discover our deeper selves AND that we are not, ultimately, alone.
          Advent is a time to experience darkness and silence—lean into them, embrace them. And it is not something we do gladly or willingly. It is something we must practice.

          Do me a favor—if you would. Close your eyes and keep them closed.
          See how close darkness always is?
          And now—eyes still closed—I’m going to stop talking for a moment….
          See how close silence always is?

          We are waiting, we are waiting, in a dark and silent place…we are waiting….
          But in our waiting, as we touch the darkness and the silence, we come to know we are not alone
          Others are waiting with us….We are not alone…without opening your eyes, simply sense the people who are with you…those here and those in your heart….
          And beyond that, there is Another who waits with us…deep, deep in our hearts, God waits with us…in the darkness and the silence…there is God….
          The New Jerusalem is coming….the Son of Man is coming….the Christ child is coming….the Light is coming….
          All our waiting will bring that to pass….
          In the darkness and the silence…..       Amen and Amen   


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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.