Happy Advent?


This sermon can be listened to here

Gate Pa – Year C - 1st  Sunday in Advent
Readings:
Psalm                          Psalm 25:1-10
First Reading:              Jeremiah 33:14-16                 
Second Reading:         1 Thessalonians 3:9-13          
Gospel:                           Luke 21:25-36 

What I want to say:
Use Elie Wiesel’s “Night” to explore our reading from Jeremiah as voice hope in time when even God is dying. Are we in such a time? Luke warns us to not be distracted by what goes on around us to the stand up and raise our heads. Again Elie Wiesel warns us what happens when we do not heed this warning. How do we stand up and raise our heads as we go through this time of madness to Christmas. Remember, Christmas is important but it is not the point! What then is the point?
What I want to happen:
If Christmas is not the point – then what is the point of all our preparation and celebration. What is it we look for this advent?

The Sermon

       1.      Introduction:

Last weekend was our son and his wife’s birthday
sang them song taught by young Canadian many years ago
just to keep things light
Happy birthday
death destruction and decay
children dying every day
happy birthday
set the tone for the week really

       2.      Night

This year I thought I would prepare for Advent by reading Elie Wiesel’s “Night”
His harrowing story as 15 year old living the last year of Hitler’s final solution at Auschwitz and then Buchenwald concentration camps.
described as “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler's death camps"
describes in Night how
-           as he walked from cattle cars taken them from ghettos of Sighet in Hungary
-          through the gates of Auschwitz
-          towards the fires and the crematorium chimney
-          separated from his mother and sister who walked to their deaths.
-          and watching as infants were tossed into the fires
-          and he and his father walked to uncertain futures (would they even live the night?)
he knew the death of God
I am reminded of why Advent is so important

       3.      Jeremiah and the death of G-d

I realised as I read our first reading this week that Night helps me into Jeremiah He was writing in time where for many Jewish people God was dying
-          when everything that gave meaning to their lives in process of being destroyed or taken away
o   David kings
o   Priests of the temple
o   Jerusalem
o   Temple
Babylonians gods had defeated YHWH
life as they knew it had come to an end
not same kind of horror that Jews Europe suffered
yet I suspect the effect was very similar
Night descended
God died
in that night we are offered a piece of Happy Jeremiah
-          Book of Consolation
-          promise, the hope  that a descendant of David would come to execute Gods justice and righteousness
-          in the darkest of nights – God is faithful.
hold on to that for a moment

       4.      Night

One of chilling parts of “Night” is the story of life in early 1940’s in town of Sighet in Hungary
nothing really happened until 1944 when Fascists seized power
even so all non-Hungarian Jews were deported on cattle cars provided by German army
when out Hungary – taken off trains and into forest
-          where they dug mass grave
-          then were shot
one person survived that
desperate to warn his fellow Jews of came back to Sighet
but they would not believe that such a thing could happen
they mocked him and his story
they would not act
they would not flee to safer places
when Fascists took over they refused to believe that anything would happen
when they were forced into two ghettos they thought maybe it was for the best
even when deported on cattle trucks still they would not believe what might happen
only when death stared them in the face would they dare to believe that such things could happen in Europe in that day and age.
And we are no different
I am not different
in part because we do not know what we might do
All is not well with our would
but what might we do?

       5.      Luke’s warnings

which brings us back to Jeremiah and Luke and Advent
Gospel reading for this Sunday is Luke’s version of what we heard from Mark 13 two weeks ago
more – death destruction and decay
children dying every day
to be honest there was enough already being thrown at me from news
-          climate change reports
-          caravans of asylum seekers met with armed troops and tear gas
-          Catastrophic effects on war Yemen
Here in this land
either the amazing apathy about all those things
-          including the looming disaster of climate change
or the intense intolerance to those trying to escape the consequences of all that bad news
left wondering
-          what am I supposed to do with all this Luke?
-          and anyway, it’s Christmas
o   we have big things to get ready for
§  gatherings of friends and families
§  presents to organise
§  food to prepare
§  singing and carolling to be done
which might be why we have this reading from Luke
Reading from Luke is a warning to not be like the Jews of Sighet
-          pay attention to the signs going on around us
Time to “be on your guard. Don't let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping” as The Message puts it.
Christmas is important
But Luke would say
-          it is not the point!
The point is that, as Jeremiah said
-          God is faithful
-          even in the darkest times, God is faithful
God is at work bringing in reign of peace, hope, joy, love
Christmas reminds us that in the darkest of nights – God is faithful.
reminded to hope for world where Gods justice and righteousness reign
I wonder what that looks like for you?
I wonder how our preparations for and celebration of Christmas is shaped by these things
If Christmas is not the point
-           then what is the point of all our preparation and celebration.
-          and what is it we look for this advent?
Finish quote from one people I read in preparation for my sermon each week
Bill Loader (http://wwwstaff.murdoch.edu.au/~loader/LkAdvent1.htm)


“The warnings in 21:34-36 easily transfer into the contemporary setting. We may not be weighed down with drunkenness and debauchery, but our self-indulgence and the vested interest in sustaining our lifestyles at the expense of peoples trapped in poverty lives itself out in equal irresponsibility - both locally and on a global scale. Our praying may be less for our own survival (21:36) and more for the survival of all.”



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