Homily

St. PAUL’S CHURCH Wellsboro, PA
ADVENT 1-C (RCL) 28 November 2021
Jeremiah 33: 14-16
Psalm 25: 1-9
1 Thessalonians 3: 9-13
Luke 21: 25-36
The BEGINNING of the END

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    What will be your end of days?
    Will you go out with a crash and burn or a smoldering ember?
    With global warming
    and wars against nations
    one has to wonder what will be the end of our days.
    I hear Jesus’ warnings in the Gospel today
    mirroring the all-too-current situation in the warring, pandemic,
    fear-filled world in which we live,
    Two weeks ago, we heard Jesus say to his faithful,
    “Don’t be troubled when you hear the noise of battles close by and news of battles
    far away. Such things must happen, but they do not mean that the end has come.
    Countries will fight each other; kingdoms will attack one another. There will be
    earthquakes everywhere, and there will be famines. These things are like the first
    pains of childbirth.” Mark 13: 1-8
    What Advent is really about is preparing, not for Christmas,
    but preparing ourselves for the end of time.
    But…
    We are in the midst already of weeks of festivities, lights, sweets, singing,
    all jollity in what the world considers Christmastime.
    But we who are faithful to the Church know we are not there yet.
    There is increasing darkness surrounding us.
    The days get shorter, the nights get colder,
    and the world distracts itself with frivolity, sweets, and baubles.
    We light candles,
    wrap trees with strings of lights,
    place on our lawns 16′ inflatable characters from Hammacher-Schlemmer.
    But what does any of that have to do in our understanding of the Gospel?
    I constantly suggest, “This is the ultimate question”
    (and with each sermon, the “ultimate question” changes,
    but it really is the same – just different wordings):
    What will be your end of days?
    In hospice work, I often tell loved ones that Mom or Dad
    chose or will choose how they die and when.
    Most often it is when someone who hasn’t will come,
    or on the contrary, depending on the person, like me
    when someone leaves so we can die in peace.
    When I have a cold, I lock myself in my room and say,
    “I’ll come out when I feel better. Leave me alone!”
    Honestly, none of us know when our end will be,
    or how we will die.
    I expect, because of my smoking history that it will be the “Big C.”
    Or with my mountain history that it will be, well, more than JUST a broken leg.
    You can guess what yours could be.
    God – and our sinful natures and abuses, some pushing the limits of “Ed-Ventures”
    our life-styles and our family history determine how it will devolve.
    There may be signs in the sky, as Jesus suggests.
    Are we willing to see the signs, pay attention, and amend our ways?
    And I mean that not only for my personal life,
    but as I pay attention to the signs around me –
    the world, the universe, God’s creation and creatures around us.
    I could simply file by title, Global Warning,
    as we’ve heard these past weeks.
    Jesus will appear, coming in a cloud with great power and glory. When these things
    begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your salvation is near.”
    We never will really know about our end.
    We can, however, choose how we will go –
    in fear, full of anxiety,
    darkened with anger or hurts harbored for years,
    including against God.
    Or in the end of times, we faithful of Chirst remember especially in this season that,
    God is with us,
    Immanuel.
    That isn’t the Advent Good News,
    it is the Christmas Good News.
    God will be with us.
    In the end,
    as at our beginning,
    God was, is, and will be
    with us.
    For Jesus tells us,
    “When these things begin to happen,
    stand up and raise your heads, because your salvation is near.”
    “Rejoice, rejoice believers,”
    is what one favorite Advent hymn proclaims.
    In these days when darkness and cold begin to encircle us,
    we light one candle, then another, and another,
    one more each week as the darkness around us grows
    bringing forth the light of hope and expectation.
    The songs of angels in the silent night of winter
    the twinkling of stars against a clear cold sky
    the soft bedding of hay with the warmth of animal pelt.
    Jesus begins today,
    “There will be strange things happening.”
    What more strange things can you imagine?
    God as a baby in a cow stall!?
    How strange!
    How blessed!
    Amen.
    May it be so this year again.