It was two days before Hallowe’en when I noticed them. Christmas decorations were being sold. Specifically it was a giant Santa Claus and Snowman. They were on display at a local retailer and my heart sank. The kids had not yet been out trick or treating and Christmas decoration were on sale. In the days that followed I saw more and more such displays. Then in the flyers that were delivered to the house I started to see Christmas sales. Too early I thought, way too early.
This past Thursday was Thanksgiving in the United States and what comes with Thanksgiving, Black Friday. Which is another way of saying it is a shopping extravaganza. Lots of sales and deals and many people start their Christmas shopping at this time.
Did you know that including today there are 25 more shopping days until Christmas. You have 25 more days to find the perfect gift for that special someone. To ensure that you find the perfect tie for your odd-ball uncle. For those with kids you have 25 more days to get this year’s hottest new toy for your little ones. Which means you probably have less than a week before they are all sold out. For grand-parents you also have 25 days to find a gift that will delight your grand-kids.
So friends, be good for goodness sake.
Rooster – Audio Sermon
Our gospel lesson is not one we might have anticipated for the first Sunday in Advent. A Sunday in which we celebrate the hope that is revealed in Christmas, the hope that we have in our saviour Jesus Christ.
Instead of a message of hope and light we receive the antithesis of this and we receive a message where we read that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Some of you may have heard this reading this morning and wondered if I was reading the appropriate section of the Bible. Is this really the message we have at advent?
In the words of Cecil B. De Mille, “Start with an earthquake, then build to a climax.”
Today we have the earthquake. A reading which reminds us that the day and the hour of Christ’s coming is unknown. That we should be alert, on guard! Jesus tells us that it might be “in the evening, or at midnight or when the rooster crows, or at dawn” and so Jesus says to us “Watch!”
These tumultuous events will precede Christ’s coming. This is the earthquake and it builds to a climax because we live in that time and place where we can say ‘already but not yet.’
We say already because Christ has been born. We are moving once again towards that time when we anticipate and remember the birth of Christ. So we are already aware of Christ’s birth, for us it is a part of our history and our shared identity as Christians.
However, we acknowledge that Christ will come again and we exist in that uneasy time of it not happening yet. This is the time that Jesus is speaking to in our passage from Mark’s gospel this morning. This is the climax that we are being led towards. So we remain awake, we keep watch.
But just what is it we are awake towards, what causes our wakefulness?
Are we wakeful to the ways of consumerism? Do we see the Christmas displays go up and do we get excited? Does the prospect of Black Friday and Cyber Monday get us excited by the deals we will find and the money we will save? Does creating a Christmas wish list excite us more than any other aspect of the season?
Are we so enamoured to the consumerist aspect of Christmas that we have fallen asleep to the spiritual season and as a result do we need a wakeup call?
Advent is a season of preparation for the birth of Christ, the birth of our saviour. It is fitting then that our Advent reading begins by sharing with us the magnitude of what Christ’s coming means for us. That it help us prepare ourselves to receive Jesus.
Advent begins by travelling the cosmos, by revealing earth shattering events so that we can ready ourselves to receive a baby in whom the promise of all things is held.
Friends, there is much at stake. Our passage reminds us that God’s message of peace as revealed in Jesus Christ is for all people. Our passage reminds us that though these events stand right before us we do not truly know when they will occur. Will Christ come again in the evening? At midnight? At dawn or when the rooster crows?
In one of his sermons, Fred Craddock tells a story about an event that happened many years ago while he was driving by himself cross-country. It is a story that is very relevant to us today. Though we do not live in as racially charged an environment as the United States it is a message we can all learn from. Craddock had stopped at a small diner somewhere in the South to refresh himself with an early breakfast and some coffee. He had been driving through the night and now it was getting close to dawn. So before he got too sleepy, he stopped for a while.
As he waited for his breakfast order to come, Craddock spied a black man who had just come in and had sat down on a stool up by the lunch counter. The diner’s manager then began to treat the black man with a contempt that was clearly borne of deep-seated racism. The manager was rude, insulting, demeaning toward his black guest. As he sat in his booth a little ways away from the counter, Craddock wrestled with saying something to chide this manager for his shameful, racist conduct. Eventually the black man quickly slurped down some coffee and then fled the diner. Craddock meanwhile remained silent. “I didn’t say anything,” he confessed. “I quietly paid my bill, left the diner, and headed back to my car. But as I walked through the parking lot, somewhere in the distance, I heard a rooster crow.”
With that poignant, final image, Craddock evoked an entire cloud of denial, betrayal, shame, and regret. The rooster’s crow following the disciple Peter’s triple denial of Jesus has become one of the more famous images from the gospels. Of course, even so, not everyone knows it. Our passage this morning is the only other one in scripture where a rooster shows up. Craddock used this sermon on a day when he was a guest. After the service, a man came up to him in the narthex, shook his hand vigorously, and said, “Thank you, pastor, for that powerful sermon. That really hit home! Oh, but by the way, what was that business with the rooster?”
Our passage this morning urges us to wait. To wait with anticipation of the birth of the Christ child. To wait with anticipation for when Christ will come again.
It also asks us to be mindful. In the middle of Christmas shopping and ‘holiday’ parties our message from Mark’s gospel reminds us to be awake to God at work in the world. So that we can live our lives in accordance with the one who has already come and who will come again. Prepared to live in the promised realm of glory that is God’s.
So remain awake to the message of the season. And in remaining awake to the knowledge of the love, grace and mercy that is found in our saviour Jesus Christ, rest. Rest and give thanks to God for the hope that we have in this season. Amen.
Text: Mark 13: 24-37