Dec 10, 2017 2nd Advent Year C Children’s message
Do you like parades? Is there any special parade you like the most? What do you like to see at a parade? When I was about your age, I looked forward to our small town’s little Fireman’s parade for the Fourth of July. There were always bands, old cars, fire engines, soldiers, and sometimes floats. We’d find a place along the parade route and then wait. And finally, we’d hear music, very faint at first but it got louder. Then we’d know the parade was on its way at last!
John the Baptist lived at the time when Jesus on the earth. He was a little like the music that tells you the parade is on tis way. He had to tell everyone that someone special was coming. Do you know who that was? It was Jesus!
People had been expecting a Messiah for a long time, someone who would be their teacher and helper. God sent John to tell them “here he comes! He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit while I can only baptize you with water. Get ready for Him! He is so special that I’m not worthy to untie his shoes.” John knew that Jesus was the Messiah.
John sounds a little odd, actually. The Bible says he wore clothes made of camel hair and he ate bugs! John kept telling people to repent; to stop doing wrong things and to start doing things that are loving. This didn’t make him very popular with some folks. However, John didn’t mind if people thought he was strange. He knew what God wanted him to do. He was like the first, faint sounds of music before a parade. He was telling the world “Get Ready! He’s coming! The one you’ve been waiting for! The Messiah is coming at last!” Sow hen we hear about John the Baptist, lets remember his is the one who told us Jesus was coming.
Dec. 10, 2017 2nd Advent Year C
Imagine for a few moments that you are a child again. You’re on a car trip, sitting in the back seat, with the trees and fences and telephone poles blurring by. The distractions you’ve brought along have long since become passé. It’s time to break the doldrums of tire noise and radio, so you ask “The Question.”
You know “the question,” in fact you say it for me: “Mom, Dad, are we…[there yet?]” “When will we…[get there?]” And what is the appropriate answer? Well, the one I always got was a very firm “Soon!” So you’re left with waiting for “soon” to arrive.
Somehow there is this tremendous gap in time when “soon” is when you compare adult “soon” to child “soon”- adult time and child time seem to be on two very different clocks. Ask any child how long soon is? It’s forever! When a child gets that “soon” answer they prepare for the job of a child…figuring out how to last through “forever.” That’s kind of the job of a kid to figure out how to patiently make it to a parent’s “soon” which is a child’s “forever.” A child knows instinctively that an adult’s “soon” is diametrically different than a child’s “soon.” So waiting becomes an essential function of a child’s job description.
Waiting isn’t just a child’s job, it’s the quintessential job of a child of God too. Waiting is a Christian task, it’s a task that is put on every “child of God” Christian from cradle to their cane. It’s also a part of the Advent season’s agenda. That is why we have the text from 2 Peter 3:8 “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is alike a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some (read children) think of slowness.” Remember, Peter informs us, to the Lord everything is “soon” a thousand years a day; a day a thousand years.
So here we are again gathering for worship week after week, Advent after Advent, sitting in the back seat wondering when we’ll get there. The answer? Soon. But unlike a child’s definition of this period of time “Soon” its not agony its opportunity. It is not at best something to be endured its an opportunity to get things ready. This is the view of Peter and its is the view of John the Baptist. The Lord is not slow about his promise but is patient with you not wanting any to perish; but all to come to repentance. God is patient taking time to allow for all things to be completed.
Think of it in terms of Christmas baking. You stir up the dough, snitch a little, then plop the little balls of dough on a cookie sheet. You place it in the oven, set the time for 10 minutes. After 5 minutes you don’t peek- you just take them out!? Are you doing anyone any favors by giving them half baked cookies. Is it an advantage to have quick cookies, ones that you don’t wait the appointed time for? You may not have kept yourself or others waiting but did that improved wait time, improve the product any? Of course not! For things to be as they’re supposed to be, the full passage of time has to occur.
As we wait, and wait, and wait, for Christ to return; for God to set all things right in this world, we keep asking from time to time: “Are we there yet?” God’s answer of “soon” is not spoken to simply placate us, or put us off. We just aren’t truly there yet. Words like wait and soon aren’t chosen to irritate but rather to encourage. Folks things aren’t done yet. The kingdom’s only half backed. Everybody’s not on board. We’ve been given time to share the word, gather the folks and finish the word and will of our Lord. It’s meant to be a time of waiting, but also a time of active waiting.
This is an important concept “active waiting.” We can keep busy on the tasks at hand while we wait. Without actively engaging this task of waiting, it loses the sense that our waiting period is an opportunity and instead becomes an irritant, something to be avoided, ignored, or complained about. Losing either interest or belief we get busy with other things and just write off “soon, wait” as just another form of adult silliness.
It’s not silliness, it is a normal and important task on the Advent agenda, on the agenda of any congregation, and any child of God. We’re invited to actively wait for God’s kingdom to arrive in all its fullness by doing what we can here and now to help usher it in. As we actively wait for Christmas let’s not just sit and stew over what’s not right but get to work on what we can make right for God’s kingdom.
I’d like to finish with a short story. It’s about how Christian’s can “actively pray” but I think it applies to actively wait. A little girl told her mother that her brother and his friends had set traps to catch birds. Her mother asked her what the girl did about the situation. She replied, “I prayed that the traps might not catch any birds.” Mom responded, “Well, that’s a good place to start, did you pray about anything else?” The girl said, “Yes! I prayed that God would keep the birds out of the trap, and…” then the little girl’s voice drifted off. Her mom, inquired, “That’s good honey, AND is there something else?” “Yes, then I went out and kicked that trap all to pieces!!”
Actively waiting is answering the call of God to be an agent of his will for the world while we wait for God to bring this world completely under God’s control. Actively waiting means feeding the hungry, healing the sick, comforting the bereaved, and sharing the good news. In short its answering John the Baptist’s call to “Prepare the way of the Lord, in our hearts, in our life and in our community.” Go in peace to love and prepare the way of the Lord. Amen.