Skip to comments.The Rev. Samuel Edwards: Sermon for Advent 1
Posted on 12/03/2005 12:00:14 PM PST by sionnsar
From the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama, here is a sermon for the First Sunday in Advent:
Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, 2005Indeed, that is why we have been graced with the Advent of our Lord: that we might be enlightened by His grace and transformed into His likeness, becoming ever more like Him.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
For us, the fact that the Church year begins on this Sunday is old news: Most of us learned it even before going through confirmation instruction. However, there is something counter-intuitive about the character of Advent, and it doesnt really have anything to do with where the calendar fixes the start of the new year.
What is unusual about the beginning of the Church Year is that it focuses not on the beginning, but on the end. Indeed, it has been a custom during this season to preach sermons on the Four Last Things, which are Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven, or to use St Thomas Mores arrangement, Death, Judgment, Pain, and Joy.
Of all the liturgical seasons, Advent is the one that seems most closely to parallel our earthly pilgrimage, both in its progress and in its end. No matter what we do, we cannot avoid three of the four Last Things: death, or judgment, or pain. We can deny them, we can like Scarlett OHara put off thinking about them until tomorrow, but in the end we cannot escape them. We shall all of us suffer. We shall each of us die. Every last one of us will be judged on the basis of what he has done with his life.
The only one of the four Last Things we can avoid is joy. In fact, thanks to our fallen condition we are as bound to succeed in avoiding joy as we are to fail in avoiding the other three. We cannot avoid the things which should occasion joy, for they are all around us and were put into the world from the beginning for us to delight in as God delights in us, but we are able to avoid joy itself.
The way to do this is very simple, so simple in fact that in our fallen, twisted, depraved condition, we do it as a matter of habit. All we have to do to avoid joy is to make ourselves the center of our own universe and to make everything in that universe an extension of our sovereign selves. That way, our focus will be on our own death, our own pain, our own judgment and on the death, pain, and judgment of our own friends, family, church, city, or country not because they are of value before God in themselves but because they are ours, because they are an extension of ourselves, because we take them for our own possessions, because we have repeated the old, old story of Adam and Eve and have sought to make ourselves gods. If we do this, we will have succumbed to the notion that in the end, its all about me, which is the surest route to losing our true selves permanently when inevitable and unavoidable death catches up with us and we no longer have time in which to repent. If that happens, we abide in hell.
The path to joy leads away from our selves. It leads through what the great spiritual masters of the Christian faith call detachment. This detachment is from things, from persons, and from our selves, but it is not a rejection of them, as it is in some non-Christian forms of mysticism. It is not a cessation of caring; rather, it is a shift in the ground of our caring. We are to learn to care for persons and for things and for our selves, not because they are ours (for they are not), but because they are Gods and only because they are his. Only in proportion to our acceptance that we can own nothing as of right only in proportion to our entering into the attitude of holy poverty only insofar as we are willing to possess nothing so long as we be owned by God only so can we enter into the fullness of joy for which we were made.
It is to the contemplation of this truth that we are called in this season of Advent. We are called to cease avoiding the reality of our death, our judgment, our pain, and instead to acknowledge, accept, and embrace them for the sake of the joy that is set before us, so that when the heavenly light breaks forth we may be able to bear and to be transfigured by it into the likeness of him that cometh to judge the world, and the peoples with his truth.
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