Advent I

The white is on the ground and the blue is on the altar.

 

There is no doubting the changing of the seasons.

 

The season of Advent is here.

 

Advent is a season of dueling anticipations.

 

The first we know well, the coming of the infant Jesus in the crib on Christmas.

 

Slowly the crèche is assembled with animals, angels, and wise men.

 

It is a comfortable coming to many of us.

 

The coming of family, tradition, and nostalgia.

 

The coming of presents, food, and the way things have always been.

 

But there is another coming we anticipate in Advent.

 

It is not the coming that has already come but the one still yet to come.

 

It is a return.

 

It is not Jesus the baby but Jesus on clouds descending.

 

Jesus is coming back.

 

When?

 

Well, we don’t really know.

 

All we know is that the time is nearer to us now than when we became believers.

 

Paul tells us it’s time to get ready.

 

Jesus is coming.

 

But what happens when Jesus comes?

 

Each week in Advent we welcome more and more light into the darkest time of the year, candle by candle.

But what will that light, the very light of Jesus Christ, do to us and the world?

Before we talk about light, let’s talk about darkness.

 

In our hemisphere, the days are growing shorter and we live in darkness longer.

 

Darkness is dangerous and depressing.

 

Darkness amplifies our anxieties.

 

Driving in the winter is bad.

 

Driving in the winter at night is worse!

 

Walking in a dangerous part of town is bad.

 

Walking in the same place at night is worse.

 

Violence against minorities happens at a higher rate at night.

 

Crimes against women happen more frequently at night.

 

There is something about darkness that encourages the worst of the world.

 

To put it another way, think about mold.

 

Mold grows like crazy in the dark.

 

It does best when we ignore it.

 

But before we know it, it’s out of control.

 

And it’s making us sick.

 

Sin is exactly the same.

 

It grows in the darkness.

 

It grows when we ignore it.

 

Think of a lie.

 

A lie seeks to protect itself by multiplying.

 

If we want a lie to live we often have to lie again and again.

 

Lying begets more lying.

 

Perhaps a lie helped protect our ego or helped us keep something we like.

 

It originally was created to serve us.

 

But over time, as it grows, we begin to serve it.

 

We have to keep it in the dark because it’s exposure will become very costly to us.

 

Like mold growing in the darkest corner of the basement, it spreads.

 

It comes into the kitchen, then into the bedroom.

 

It begins to affect our whole life.

 

And we often don’t realize how bad it really is until it’s really bad.

 

It doesn’t have to be a lie.

 

Paul talks about other things that grow in the dark:

 

Reveling, drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy.

 

All of these things love the dark.

 

But they hate the light.

 

Paul tells us the light is coming.

 

We can see that the light is coming.

 

Candle by candle we welcome in the light of Jesus Christ.

 

In such light we see clearly how much sin has grown up in us and around us.

 

We see how deformed our personal lives and our culture have become.

 

It’s ugly.

 

But it’s the truth.

 

And the light of truth breaks the power of sin.

 

In the light of truth, we are freed from serving lies and all of the other vices in our lives.

 

I can tell you from experience.

 

I am a sinner.

 

I don’t speak about sin theoretically but anecdotally.

 

I have been there.

 

When I was a first year student at seminary I learned about reconciliation of the penitent or the Episcopal version of private confession.

 

So, even with all of my Protestant prejudice, I sought out a confessor.

 

I worked with him to give a life confession.

 

I put a floodlight on all of my most embarrassing, humiliating, stupid sins.

 

It was as painful as having a wart burned off in the moment.

 

 

But the joy I felt afterwards surpasses my ability to describe it.

 

I literally felt a weight off of my shoulders.

 

I again made my confession at the monastery last month.

 

And it reaffirms for me that the sins I confess have less power over me.

 

The sins I expose to the light of Christ, shrivel up.

 

The sins I name lose their power.

 

We will light another candle each week until Christmas.

 

What will that light expose?

 

What moldy lies will become clear in the such light?

 

What has been growing in the darkness in your life?

 

What has been growing in the darkness of our culture?

 

What have we ignored and let get out of control?

 

What will Christ’s light shrivel up in our midst?

 

The time has arrived, the light is coming.

 

Be watchful for those things that will be swallowed up in Christ’s glory.

 

We know not when the sun of righteousness will rise, only that is one day sooner.

 

Keep watching and don’t ignore what is grows now in the dark.

 

Because it’s power is fading as the light grows.

 

Sin’s power over us is shrinking each day.

 

Its grip is loosening.

 

Something new is coming.

 

Like a green shoot through the cold snow.

 

Something is coming.

 

Keep watch.

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