God is the one waiting this Advent, waiting for you to come and be the Christ for the world you were anointed to be.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The First Sunday of Advent, year A
Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
What if God’s the one waiting for an Advent?
Hoping, praying for the coming of Christ into this world to bring wholeness and life?
Every year we take this season to remember we are always waiting for God’s coming again in Christ. We talk about what it means to be patient for God’s healing of all things.
But what if the Triune God is the one who waits, the patient one?
What if we’ve been looking at Advent backwards?
Isaiah’s pretty clear about this.
In days to come, the prophet says, weapons of war will be reshaped into tools for growing, tools for nurturing, tools for feeding. Weapons of any kind won’t be needed, and the earth’s peoples won’t even learn how to do war.
It’s a beautiful promise. You just might not have heard clearly how it happens, that’s all.
Isaiah actually proclaims that all the world’s peoples will come to God’s mountain to learn a new way. God’s teaching will go out from there and spread over the world. All people will learn what it is to walk in God’s way. And the prophet concludes with this urgent invitation: “Come, let us walk in the light of the God Who Is!”
We’ve been waiting for God to bring about the promised peace on earth, good will to all, and we’ve missed this whole truth: it is God who is waiting for us. This Advent, and every day, the holy and Triune God is praying, “please come. Christ is needed in the world, you anointed ones of mine. Come, my Christs, and learn from me, let me shape you in my love, so I can send you out for the blessing of my creation.”
It’s time we took the Scriptures seriously regarding God’s promised hope for this world.
It’s almost never God’s divine intervention. It’s always God choosing people, drawing them close, showing them the light of God’s way, and sending them out.
And you and I, who are baptized in Christ, we even claim that title. You are anointed in baptism, which means you are literally Christ. One in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection. That’s not just so you know where you’re going after you die. If you are one with Christ, you are joined into the life of the Triune God.
And if you are Christ, the Anointed of God, there’s only one job to do: go out and be the Anointed of God.
And the Triune God is waiting, hoping that you, that I will finally hear what the plan is and act on it.
It’s time for salvation now, Paul says. “So, put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The divisions in the Roman churches between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians can only be healed when they all realize that they are Christ, they are, as Paul says to them earlier, people who are transformed by the renewing of their minds, rescued from their enmity with God, and made into one body. Made into Christ. That’s not a symbol, or a cute way to think of the Church. Christ is a real body, Paul believes, made up of real people who are in fact, Christ themselves.
So “be clothed in Christ,” Paul literally says. Put Christ on as a garment, be covered by the anointing of God, and you will be changed.
This whole section of Romans, of which we only got a small part today, shows what that looks like:
You will love your neighbor, because you are Christ.
You will be kind to those weaker in the faith, because you are Christ.
You will not insist on your own way, because you are Christ.
You will rejoice in hope, you will be patient in suffering, because you are Christ.
You will live in harmony with others, you will live peaceably with all, because you are Christ.
Even if no one else does, you need to be who you are, Paul says. You are needed to overcome the evil of this world with your good. Because you are Christ.
The thing is, God needs weapons changed to tools for feeding. But God needs you to do it. It’s what you’re anointed for.
Every time I lash out at someone, every time you cause another person pain on behalf of your own comfort, we’re just making more weapons.
We may not have the ability to end war on a global scale, though we can certainly work for that, vote for that, urge our leaders toward that goal. But none of that matters if we don’t look at the swords and spears in our own hands, our violent thought, our violent words, our violent actions, and recognize that they must be changed. Jesus clearly preached and lived a way of non-violence, but he did that in a tradition that stretches back at least as far as these words of Isaiah.
Everything that we do matters. Your life affects others. Even things that you do that you aren’t aware hurt others have their impact. And if it harms anyone, then as Christ, you have to ask if you are loving your neighbor as yourself, if you are being peaceable, if you are living a transformed life.
It’s complicated, and it’s inconvenient. More and more people are making you and me aware of how what we do hurts others in so many ways. We’re confronted daily with how our lives are literally weaponized, even without our wanting it to be so. I just recently decided I don’t think I can do business with a company anymore because of the horrible work conditions they subject their workers to. As Christ, as God’s anointed, I’ve decided there are other companies I can use, and until I’m convinced otherwise, I can’t participate in their practices.
God’s waiting, for me, for you, because only you and I can set down our weapons and make them into tools for healing and life.
Only you and I can pay attention to our lives, our words, our actions, consider how our neighbor is affected, and then ask, “what should I do?” This is how together we will end the sin of racism, the evil of sexism, the criminal reality that people starve to death in a world with tons of food thrown away every day, and this is how we will end every problem that harms and even kills God’s beloved children.
And this is why Jesus doesn’t really care about when the world will end. As the Son of God, he says today he has no idea when it will happen. Don’t care about that, Jesus says. Just stay awake, do the job you’ve been called to do, and let the end be what it is whenever it is.
This is why you were anointed. It’s why we were all anointed.
So what are you waiting for?
If God’s plan can’t happen without you, what does that mean for your Advent prayer? If you’ve been called into your life, your family, your community, anointed in baptism for what you and only you can do as Christ, what does that mean for your Advent prayer?
You certainly can continue to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.” That prayer is answered every moment of your day, every place you are: with your life, and the lives of all God’s anointed.
In our Eucharistic Prayer every week we pray both, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and “Come, Holy Spirit.” And in the prayer for the Spirit we always ask God’s Spirit to move in us and change us in some way. To empower us to be a part of God’s healing and life. To give us what we need to answer God’s patient but urgent Advent prayer, to be what God is waiting for.
The second coming of Christ is you. It’s me. We are who we’ve been waiting for. And with the courage of the Spirit flowing in you, there’s no limit to what God can do for the world through you.
In the name of Jesus. Amen