We are the second coming of Christ. It’s time to wake up and live that way.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The First Sunday of Advent, year A
Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14 (adding 8-10); 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
It’s time we stopped waiting for Christ and started living as Christ.
At this entrance to the Church Year, we always hear words of Jesus calling us to be ready, even in the middle of the night, for Christ’s return. Jesus says today, I’m coming like a thief in the night (hardly a warm image). In the other two lectionary years, Jesus also says stay awake and read the signs in the earth and skies. I’m coming unexpectedly.
Advent, we say, is a time of practicing waiting for that unexpected time, that coming. “Come, Lord Jesus,” we pray.
But we’re past any time for waiting. Christ has already returned. The Second Coming is already here. And it’s you and me and all who bear Christ’s name.
Paul says that it’s time to live that way.
Today he sums that life up for us: “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. . . . Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
And now is the time to live that way, Paul says. There’s no waiting. Now is the day, so live in the light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, he says, and live in love, now. Rejoice with those who rejoice, now. Weep with those who weep, now. Show hospitality to strangers, now. Wake up and live as the Christ you are, now.
This profoundly changes our Advent. And it’s not just Paul who does.
Advent means “coming.” If we truly heard the Advent Gospels we’d never think that meant waiting for Christ to come again. Because in the next two weeks John the Baptist is going to show up as he always does and call us to repentance and newness of life. He says that in Jesus the reign of God is already here.
That means our Advent prayer needs to be: come, Lord Jesus, in us. Right now. Cover us with yourself, your life, your love. Fill us with your Spirit. So that we can be the coming of Christ right now. Each of us one day will run out of days to serve in this life and will move to the life to come. But right now it’s daytime. Christ is already here. What are we waiting for?
Now, listen to Isaiah again and ask the same question.
“In days to come,” the prophet says, God’s mountain will be lifted up and all people will see it, flock to it. And God will teach all people the way of God’s reign. And everyone will convert their weapons of war into farming implements. They’ll stop making death and start growing life. They’ll stop teaching their children to fight and kill and start teaching them to nurture and love. All will walk in God’s light.
Well, these are those days to come. And you are God’s Christ, anointed to bear God’s mercy into your world. Why would you or I or anyone hear of swords being beaten into plowshares and say, “well, hopefully, some day.” Why do we persist in hearing everything Jesus teaches and saying, “wouldn’t that be nice? But it’s not realistic right now. Some day.”
There’s no “some day,” Paul says. It’s day right now. Even if no one else lives this way, he tells his Romans, you are to live peaceably with all. With everyone.
What are we waiting for? Jesus to return in the clouds and make peace, destroy weapons for us? He’s said that’s not how he operates. God-with-us comes to people and changes them from within, and so changes the world.
But we seem to always hope and wait for a different way of God.
Christians have killed more people in world history than any other group you can name. We’ve spent too much time waiting for Christ instead of being Christ.
The first disciples began the problem. After Jesus rose, they completely misunderstood the cross. They asked Jesus if now he was going to drive out the Romans, lead the rebellion, restore Israel. No, Jesus told them. They would be filled with the Spirit to go as Christ to all the world, vulnerable and loving witnesses. That’s the plan.
Why would we expect Jesus to do anything different now or in some future return? Jesus promised to return, and has. For 2,000 years people have been made into Christ and sent into the world to make peace. To bring mercy and love and grace. To destroy swords and guns, and end violence by living non-violent, passionate lives of peacemakers and love-bringers.
When the Church obsesses over a superhero Christ sailing in on the clouds to fix everything that we can’t be bothered to fix or change or heal, we act exactly as Christ and Paul tell us not to. We become children of the night, seeking power and control. We don’t see our personal lives as relevant to God’s plan of healing all things, and resist change. We start trying to dominate the world and protect our institutions instead of being a little yeast in a large batch of flour, a tiny seed in a massive field. And evil is done, again and again.
Let this be your Advent: pray, “Come to this world, Lord Jesus, in me.”
Night is over, and it’s the day. While you have breath, be the coming of Christ you are meant to be. When you pray “Come, Lord Jesus” that way, things will change.
Because when you and I and all who carry the name of Christ start living as Christ, putting on the Lord Jesus, draping ourselves with love and compassion and patience and hope and making peace in our hearts, in our families, in our world, then Isaiah’s vision would happen now. War would be over. Violence in our families would be done. Attacks in our streets would be a thing of the past. People of faith hating those who disagree with them would be ancient history. Hunger and poverty and oppression all would disappear. All this, Christ says, could be our world right now.
Wake up. It’s already morning, and you are what you’ve been waiting for. Now live it, with the Spirit’s grace, for the sake of all things. And for your sake, too.
In the name of Jesus. Amen