Honoring the Nestorian Christians

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent Sunday 1 - A New Journey Begins

ADVENT SUNDAY 1: A New Journey Begins
By the Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara 11/27/2011)
(Readings: Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37)

The end of all exploring,” wrote the poet T. S. Elliot, “is to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the first season in the Christian Calendar. We begin with one of Isaiah’s prophetic statements: “Since ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4).

Coming from the Latin word Adventus, Advent means “coming.” We are expecting the coming of the One whom we waited for so long. As the Psalmist prayed, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for you, O God.” The coming of the Messiah is God’s response to the cry of His people. I love one of the Advent hymns which says, “O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here, until the Son of God appears.”

We, human beings are always on search for something, or someone. Often our activities are filled with seeking, with searching, with finding that which was lost---a lost cause, a lost love, a lost coin. A friend of mine said that he has three pairs of eye glasses: the first one is for reading, the second one is for driving and the third one is for finding those pairs of glasses. Yes, we go through life searching. We search for a job, we search for wealth, we search for education, we search for  relationship, we search for directions, we search for meaning.

Poets and writers tell us that behind all our searching for the things of this world, what we really search for, deep within, is God. For even if we found that longed-for success, that education, wealth, fortune, fame or power, we realize that our search for contentment eludes us. We realize, as many so-called successful searchers have realized, that no amount of wealth and power can make our lives secure, no amount of human achievement can lead us to peace. St. Augustine aptly spoke this illusion in his prayer, “Lord, thou has made us for thyself and our hearts are restless till they find rest in thee.” There is indeed a God-shaped hole in our souls that only God can fill. Thus we are told by Isaiah that rather than simply leaving us to search for Him, God decided to act on behalf of those who search for Him. He shall come down from heaven in order to dwell in the midst of His people who wait for Him. 

The First Coming
The story of God and man sitting at table, comes to us in the person of Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God-with-us. This is the uniqueness of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. Carne in Latin means meat or flesh. This God, who is Spirit, has become flesh in the person of Jesus.  

Do you know what is an aardvark? You will know an aardvark by looking the word in the dictionary. Dictionary defines an aardvark as a “medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa, that eat ants.”  Now you have an idea of what is an aardvark. But you don’t know how it looks like, so you go to Africa or a nearby zoo. Then you would see an aardvark, feel an aardvark and even hear the sound of the aardvark. But yet that is as far as you can go with regards to knowledge. To really know what is an aardvark is to become an aardvark. 

That is what incarnation means. Not only that God created us, not only that God studied us, not only that God came down to see us. In His unbounded love and compassion, God became like us. He took on human form, being born like us, growing up like us, living life like ours and dying like our death. The hopes and fears of all the years, the ultimate divine-human encounter, was realized in the person of Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth. Indeed, ‘no ear has heard and no eye has seen, besides God who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” 

Waiting for Christ’s Return
Yet the coming of Christ was not just a historical blip 2,000 years ago. In a sense, God has come, continues to come and is coming.  And this is the second meaning of Advent. “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The actual day of Christ’s return in power and glory, no one knows. That is why we must live our lives with watchfulness. One theologian said, ”We must live our life as if one foot is on earth and the other foot is in heaven.” Another theologian said, “We must plan like we have hundred years but we must live like this is the last day of our life.” Of course, there is another theologian who said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plan.” Yes, our times are in God’s hands.  That is why we must learn to live in faith and the only way to live the life in faith is to be aware of God’s coming again. “Be alert, be watchful, be awake,” Jesus said.

So let this Advent season, set you once again to a new search and longing for God. Let us all be seekers of the holy grail and remain faithful in waiting. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way, in all your speaking and in all your knowledge…Therefore do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful.”

May this season of Advent set us once again to a new journey to God who comes and will come again to meet us and dwell among us. Amen.

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