Today is the first Sunday of Advent and no one really celebrates it anymore. The season has been swallowed up by commercial Christmas. Yes, we come to church and note the purple vestments and sing the Advent Hymns. But we forget about it as soon as we step outside the church. TV is showing Christmas movies the stores are lit up with Christmas lights. Christmas time parties will soon be here, in a word, commercial Christmas has arrived. Luring us into secular festivities without any spiritual preparation. For the greatest event in human history the birth of God on earth.
There is no time before the birth of Christ Jesus to even look at these people who unknowingly were part of the first drama. People who could tell us so much about what happened back then and what it meant. But at least for our short time here today we can look back. Back to the time before online shopping and artificial lights. Back then the only light would be a star. We begin with Mary, she was a young girl and she is scared by a vision and a voice. The angelic messenger says, “Do not be afraid,” then he gave his message.
Then she became more afraid, could she handle this call to be a mother of the Messiah. How could this all happen? What about her parents, the neighbors, what about Joseph? It must have been a long lonely pause. But, then she said yes to God. “Be it done unto me according to Your Word.” And her life moved in a direction of which she never dreamed. Mary encourages us to say yes to God and to walk with her during advent. Then there is Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, she could not have a child.
In a society that highly prized children, a child would give her status, acceptance with the other women of the village. Instead, everyone could see she was childless folding dishtowels instead of diapers. What was wrong with her? Didn’t God love her enough to give her a child? Then one day she felt a stirring in her body. Then cousin Mary came to visit and they both celebrated God’s breaking into their lives. Elizabeth knew that she had been given the gift of a child by God.
Elizabeth tells all who feel less them, who feel emptiness, sidelined-they are noticed by God. She tells us, “keep faith with our tradition, read the scriptures, worship in community.” God does not forget and will break into all lives if we let Him. Elizabeth gives us Advent hope. Then in the Advent story we have Joseph. We don’t hear one word from him in the gospels he is the silent man who is often overlooked. He is always asking, what’s going on around here, I’m the last one to know.
He is one of the special quiet people who make a difference who remain faithful. He obeys even when he does not understand. Faithful, loyal Joseph. He always did what God asked of him. And because of him great things happened. Finally, we met Anna, remember her the old woman in the temple. She went there everyday in the hope of seeing the Messiah before she dies. She is a woman who knows loss. She lost her husband and some of her children. Celebrating Passover will be hard this year because her husband is gone.
She has a heavy heart so many memories. She is old now and her faith and hope have ebbed. She lives in constant doubt all these promises too long unfulfilled. All that waiting for the Messiah was a waste of time. She has seen too much tragedy too much innocent suffering. To many unanswered prayers, too much of God’s absence. But her moment came, despite dryness of heart she went to the temple every day. Then came the day when she got to look on the face of the Messiah.
She teaches us to remain faithful in spite of doubt in spite of loss. Those are some of the people we can focus on during Advent. I suggest that you take some of them home with you. In the midst of all the entertaining celebration try to walk with Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph or Anna. And ask yourself what am I doing right now to help build God’s kingdom on earth. What will I begin to do right now on this first Sunday in Advent?