Advent Sunday - Opening Doors

Rev'd Sarah
Sunday, November 27, 2016 - 9:30am

Sermon – Advent Sunday – Opening doors.... 
Isaiah 2.1-5; Romans 13.11-14; Matthew 24.36-44

Now is the moment for you to wake from sleep ....put on the Lord Jesus Christ

Happy new year!  This great day – Advent Sunday - marks the start of our new church year. It’s a time when we wake up to the freshness of the year that lies before us.  When we can look forward in hope to new beginnings, new birth, new doors opening into the richness and abundance of life for which we are all created. 

And we begin our year, of course, journeying through the wonderful season of Advent.  Advent is one of those times of punctuation, a chance to pause. And as we faithfully prepare expectantly, we wait actively for the presence of Christ bursting into the world and into our individual lives. This is not, as our readings this morning remind us, a time to doze

One of the great activities we do through Advent is to open doors – open doors which block out Christ’s reality in our world; and open doors which let Christ’s light stream in as we journey towards new birth in our life with Christ. 

Now I wonder ....which of these Advent calendars you think is most theologically sound?  Perhaps this one I bought for my mother which opens a little like a triptych altarpiece, glistening in the light with depictions of scenes leading to Christ’s birth.  Or perhaps this more accurate illustration of Bethlehem town, and where each window opens to offer a line from scripture.  

Or this one chosen by my dog Dougan the other day in Pets at Home......where Winalot Wainwright presents a dully lit ordinary scene from daily life, and the doors open to delicious treats - rich in salmon! 

I won’t put you on the spot now, but there’s the chance at coffee perhaps to discuss the theological strengths and weaknesses of modern day advent calendars. 

I have to say, I think it’s my dog who’s got it right again. Here the window opens from darkness to light, to offer daily gifts that nourish, gifts that delight, gifts that are anticipated with ever greater eagerness as expectations build for the next opening door, and the next, and the next, as the journey continues towards the ultimate gift of Christ’s love breaking in to our ordinary everyday life.

As we expectantly open doors through advent, we prepare ourselves to receive Christ again. And as we know Christ’s presence here and now, we open doors so that darkness might give way to light. Opening the way for each other to be transformed by Christ’s light and share in his great gifts of salvation, hope and love.

 But it’s not always easy.  Our journey through Advent, as we’ll continue to experience through our lectionary readings over the next 4 weeks, is a challenging one. Wake up, cry Mathew and Paul to us this morning....don’t go back to sleep now, any minute the alarm will go off .....and it isn’t us that set the clock.

 The sudden removal of people in the midst of ordinary activities, as described by Matthew in his shocking parable of the end times, wakes us up sharply to the dangers of dozing off as we live in the unpreparedness of our daily lives.

As people of Advent hope, Paul tells us to put on two things: the armour of light, and the Lord Jesus. To take off our old clothes, abandon all that separates us from God, and be wrapped in the fresh garments of the Christ-like identity bestowed on us through baptism. It’s well worth reading the whole of chpt 13 of Paul’s letter to the Romans before lunch by the way. Paul reminds us that it matters that we live honorably with pure hearts, where our desires are directed to the things of God....our gaze fixed on Christ not on earthly comforts or rules. As we search our hearts in preparation to welcome Christ anew, our Advent journey opens the doors of our lives to the judgment and transforming power of God. We can know that we too are wonderfully and fearfully made children of God....fully know in all our beauty and in all our sin....and fully loved. Christ comes to show us that.

Advent challenges us to keep awake, to be ready as we wait for Christ’s coming, to open the doors to all that gives glimpses of Christ incarnate, all that draws us closer into Christ’s love and love of our neighbour.  

But as a wise man from the East, of Basing, said at our PCC meeting on Monday night...’ you do have to show up - If you turn up, you might find out what’s behind the door - it’s only when you open the door you are able to find something might find something to see or something to do...., but you have to open the door.

The wise man was speaking particularly of the splendid St Mary’s Advent Shed which you will have spotted has popped up outside.  Those gleaming advent shed doors will burst open from this Thursday 1st Dec. Opening with wonder in creative performances and participation, to enable the Christmas story to unfold afresh before our eyes as we are offered the gift to glimpse Christ anew.

And we are blessed to wait actively with others, open doors for and with others who might glimpse Christ differently and open our eyes beyond the narrow personal vision of our own lens.

Pope Francis is particularly good at opening doors, and he’s even made closing doors a great opening. Last Sunday he closed the great Holy Door at St Peter’s in Rome, marking the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  But as he closed the door of mercy at St Peter’s, he opened the door to a ‘culture of mercy’, to be God’s people of mercy. His letter Misericordia et Misera, doesn’t shy from practical, transforming acts of mercy such as the new power for Catholic priests to absolve women who have had an abortion. Pope Francis concludes through his apostolic letter: ‘the Jubilee year now ends and the Holy Door is closed, but the door of mercy of our heart continues to remain wide open’.

As we close doors on the past year, things in our past which we find difficult, hold us back, cause us pain..... we can look to new beginnings through God’s grace.  Each day, we can open new doors to see the wonder of Christ’s presence active in our world and deep within us.  As we open the doors of mercy from our hearts.... we let the radiance of Christ’s love blaze forth in all its tender, loving, humility. 

And the beauty of it all as we begin afresh this Advent Sunday, is that we have at least 24 windows to open this coming month, plus quite a few shed doors!

As Isaiah cries... Come, let us walk (together) in the light of the Lord!

Let’s open some doors.