Sermon for December 15 2019

Gospel:  Matthew 11:2-13

Are you the one to come, or are we to wait for another?

We know the question.  We form it often in a multiple of ways:

  • Is this the solution to my problem, or do I wait and keep looking?
    • Are you the right person/partner/applicant/spouse, or do I wait and choose someone else?
    • Am I making the right decision, or do I wait for more answers?
    • Is this the cure for my illness, or do I wait for the next option?

Do we wait for something bigger/better/newer/more promising to come along?  Do I exercise patience Lord  OR  is this one in front of me THE one?

Just last week we heard how confident John the Baptist had been in his bold proclamation.   Out in the wilderness, he was so convinced that Jesus was the one for whom the prophets had spoken.  But now, imprisoned – maybe recognizing his survival chances were bleak – his claim seems unsure, even to himself.

Are you the one to come, or do we wait for another?

Advent is a season when we especially remember that the answer to that question is … YES!

  • Yes, John was correct 2000 years ago when he proclaimed Jesus as one who would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire”
    • Yes, Jesus is here today as we wait for solutions, answers, assurance.
    • Yes, we wait for the day when Jesus will come again.

During Advent, we take time to prepare for the arrival of Immanuel, God with us in the flesh.  And during Advent we remember we are still waiting for the second coming when, as Isaiah puts it: the desert will blossom, the weak will be strengthened and water will break forth to nourish the dry lands.

During our time of waiting, we take hope because our salvation does not depend on to our own efforts.  Instead, we rest on the promises of our gracious creator.

But waiting is not easy.  When it comes to patience, we all tend to pray, “Lord, give me patience – and I need it RIGHT NOW!”  Often the times of waiting are dark times.  They seem so long.  Times when, like John the Baptist, we are figuratively locked away, denied justice, held in chains of hurt, sickness, doubt or despair.  Waiting is all too often a time of darkness.

Life comes with a healthy dose of injury, heartache, tragedy, and discouragement.  How are we to be patient and wait in hope in the depths of pain, when hopelessness seems the more logical response. 

Our reading from James encourages us to be patient.  Strengthen our hearts.  Be like farmers who must wait for the rain and the sun and the sprouting of the seed – with no certainty any of it will come.  We are to be patient for the coming of the Lord. 

But even John the Baptist – miracle child announced by the angels and born to proclaim the coming of Jesus – even John had doubts that his waiting was warranted.  He felt the darkness creeping in.

Darkness is disorienting.  We can no longer see color, our “compass points” are gone, it is difficult to maintain a feeling of security.  Darkness is used as a metaphor for ignorance, despair, death, evil, secrecy and the unknown.  Darkness is used in prisons as a punishment, and in torture as a way of “breaking” a person.  Winter darkness causes many to battle depression.  In Spiritual Direction we speak of the Dark night of the soul, when God feel far, far away.  Darkness is the absence of light, of love, of hope, of God. 

But light breaks into darkness.  Light is stronger than darkness.  St Francis said: ‘All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.’  It is said that you can see one candle in the darkest of nights from 30 miles away.  And we see with the naked eye, the Andromeda galaxy, located an astonishing 2.6 million light-years from Earth.  Light is stronger than darkness.

Holden Evening Prayer quotes the Gospel of John: “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 

The light of God does not vanquish the darkness of the world – but shines into that darkness – and keeps shining.  There will be darkness but it cannot conquer the light.  Take heart – Be hopeful – the light flickers even in the darkest of times.

When I can’t see the light, the light of hope, the light of love, the light of God – I need my Christian community to hold the light up for me and point me in its direction.  And, in return I, as your sister in the faith, will do the same for you in your time of darkness.  Together we look for signs of God’s kingdom all around.  Signs of the light shining in the darkness.  Signs that bring hope to despair.

While we wait for the coming of the Lord, we can share with others what we see and hear: that there are signs of hope lighting the dark world:

  • The eyes of hearts and the ears of minds have been opened to hear Jesus’ message of love for neighbor.
    • Those who were closed off, now find ways to walk alongside those of differing viewpoints,
    • The sick of every kind find loving care. 
    • And the poor are given food and shelter. 

These are signs of God’s reign and give us hope as we wait for the second coming of Christ – when all things will be restored, when all things will be made right. 

Wait in hope – the light does overcome the dark!