The Tide Is Turning

A Homily for the Fourth Week of Advent

Text: Isaiah 29:9-24


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the One who redeems the House of Jacob. Amen.

It’s a long story, with many twists and turns, and started long ago. But it went off the rails so early.

The Lord called Abraham and Sarah, and God promised to bless the world through them. But they sinned, turning instead to their own schemes, abusing Hagar and banishing her with Ishmael, Abraham’s first-born son.

The Lord called to Jacob, and blessed him, but he fought with his brother, and his sons betrayed each other.

Of their descendants came twelve tribes, and the Lord called to the entire people of Israel, but they fought amongst themselves, and turned to other gods, and they split between north and south, and their kings led them astray.

And then came the cataclysm, the Assyrians, and erased Israel from the map. And then came Babylon, and destroyed the temple, and took Judah into exile.

The night of this world is long and dark.

But the tide is turning.

Continue reading “The Tide Is Turning”

A Doomy, Gloomy Advent

A Homily for the Third Wednesday of Advent

Text: Isaiah 9:8-11


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who makes speed to save us. Amen.

It’s doom and gloom for the northern kingdom.

A quick crash course in Israelite history: the twelve tribes united under King Saul, and then there was a bit of a civil war as Saul and David fought for the throne. David became king over Judah and then over all Israel, and he was followed by his son Solomon. The united kingdom was short-lived, though, as the ten tribes in the north broke away and kingdom split between north (Israel) and south (Judah). The northern kingdom was a lot less stable than their southern neighbors: Israel had as many kings in two centuries as Judah had in three and a half. And now, tonight, it’s on the verge of collapse.

Continue reading “A Doomy, Gloomy Advent”

Doom or a Breakthrough From Heaven

A Homily for Vespers on the first Wednesday in Advent

Text: Isaiah 2:1-4


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Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We tend to think of Advent as a long countdown to Christmas. That’s what this wreath is all about, right? Light a candle each week, then the big one on Christmas Eve.

That’s the origin of the tradition. We tend to think that Jesus lit candles to mark the days until his birthday and that we’ve done this for thousands of years, but the Advent wreath only dates back to the 19th century when a German pastor working with children.

“Pastor Klaus, Pastor Klaus, is it Christmas yet?”

“Nein! No! Not yet! Stop pestering me!” And so he took a wagon wheel, slapped some candles on it, and told the kids, “Here. We’ll light a candle each day, and when they’re all lit, it’s finally Christmas. So stop asking!” It quickly evolved into the four candles we know today, then moved from the home into the sanctuary.

Or those cute little cardboard calendars that, even though they’re designed for children, I still insist on buying for myself every year: starting on December 1st, you open a small flap and pull out a piece of (admittedly mediocre) chocolate each day until Christmas.

BuzzFeed published an article that really gets to the heart of how we view Christmas. They put forward a list of “crazy German Christmas traditions,” writing: “The so-called Advent Sundays are another great way to get hyped for actual Christmas!”

(As an aside, the same article also lists Christmas Eve services as a “great way to to kill time” “as the local pastor rant[s] about people that only visit the church on Christmas,” so I’m not sure I trust their expertise on Germany, Advent, or Christmas.) Continue reading “Doom or a Breakthrough From Heaven”