Cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Our collect this morning for this first Sunday of Advent reminds us that by God’s grace, we are invited on a journey from darkness into light and that we have a role to play in that journey as we cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Our journey in the midst of this cold and dreary time as we move into darker and darker days does not need to overwhelm us, it does not need to override our lives because we walk toward the light. Of course we know people whose lives are permeated by darkness, those who suffer from depression this time of year, those who are suffering because of Hurricane Sandy, those who have experienced death so close to them that the darkness seems to be right at their doorstep. But our readings today reminds us that even in the midst of such darkness there is light and we live in that hope.
Jeremiah reminds us that a righteous branch will spring forth, what God has promised will come to pass. Thessalonians reminds us to love one another and all and that God will strengthen our hearts. Our first two readings tell us that even during these dark days, to hold on, there will be light!
I got to experience that myself as we were preparing to come home from Vermont after a wonderful Thanksgiving away with family. As I was ready to get the car packed, we had a flat tire and even after AAA changed the tire, we found that the tire was not full size but an emergency tire that might not have gotten us home. So we needed to fix our flat tire but who would do it for us in the middle of Vermont on a cold, cloudy and snowy day? Driving home we passed a Ford dealership and we stopped in, not only did they fix the flat tire and put it back on so we could get home but they refused payment. In the midst of darkness there was light.
Many you have probably seen in the paper or on Facebook the picture of the NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo giving a homeless man new boots and new socks. What's interesting about the story not only is it about giving to someone in need and how the officer himself has been changed by this interaction when he learned that this homeless man never had shoes & he saw the blisters but that the officer still carries the receipt around with him to remind him that there are people always worse off. That is light in the midst of darkness.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us not to fear signs of the earth in distress, or when nations are confused. But to be alert, raise our heads, redemption is surely coming, we need not fear. He is telling us that light will overcome the present darkness.
The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Congo has asked for our prayers. (The DRC is the 2nd largest land area nation in Africa; its capital alone is bigger than the State of CT!) There are many articles in the paper about the violence there, of a major western city in that country, Goma that was overrun by rebels. These rebels seek to overthrow the government and the prayers that we are asked to pray is for an end of the violence and for all the parties in the conflict to come to a place of peace. The DRC is a nation where the people sit in deep darkness wondering what their lives will be. It is a nation confused and overwhelmed.
We have been asked by our Presiding Bishop to pray “for an end to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an end to violence and the atrocities, that the needs of the suffering may be supplied, and that peace may prevail. Our fellow Anglicans in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to experience violence and displacement.”So over the next few weeks in this season of Advent we will do just that we will remember the DRC, the Democratic Republic of Congo, we will remember the Archbishop and the church there and its ministry among all the people, we will remember those who are suffering and we will pray for peace. We will pray for them in our prayers of the people (and at 10:15 AM our Eucharistic prayer will be from the church in Congo and will help remind us of our solidarity with them as we gather around the altar.).
So in this Advent, in this time of waiting & praying expectantly, we live in hope, we ask God’s grace to cast off our works of darkness and put God’s light into us and transform us, so that through our prayers and action we can help bring light into the darkness of this world.
As the author and priest Henri Nouwen put it:
“To trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings […] trusting that God molds us according toa God's love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction.”That is the season of Advent, we hope for new things. Amen.