I trust you all had a good Thanksgiving. Did you have a good Thanksgiving? My family and I did. And I know a lot of people traveled and are traveling this weekend. The weather on Tuesday and Wednesday wasn’t the greatest. Made traveling a bit of a challenge for some. And for another year I managed to stay away from the stores on Friday. Which really isn’t hard for me to do on any day of the year.
By the way, did any of you go shopping Friday? How’d it go? Nancy and I saw a few folks camped outside of Target on Thursday around noon when we stopped at Wegman’s to pick up a few items for our Thanksgiving dinner. Let me say – and I hope I’m not insulting anybody here today – but I don’t understand why people do that. The camping out for days ahead thing. Hey, it’s cold out there. And how much are they really saving? Well – I guess if they didn’t think it was worth it – they wouldn’t do it.
I know that Black Friday is important to stores and merchants. And if you are a careful shopper, you can get a good deal on a variety of items for sale. I understand that. I bought myself a television – I mean I bought my family a television – on a Black Friday some three years ago – you know – middle of the afternoon – no waiting in line – no camping out over night. I got what I came for and left.
But now that Thanksgiving is past, it’s time to take a look at the next big holiday. And of course you know I’m talking about Christmas. Christmas. People are getting ready for Christmas. And for just about everybody – just about everyone of us – that means getting our Christmas shopping done. And if you’re really good at that – you try to get it done early. That’s why so many people are camping out to be the first in line, I guess. Fighting the crowds on Black Friday. You saw that on the news, right? People literally fighting. Over what? Stuff!
These are the people who are connected and in sync with the season. Or are they? I want to talk to you today about what it means to be connected and in sync with the season. You need to know – and I trust that you already know – that we disciples of Jesus Christ tend to look at this time of year differently than the rest of the world looks at things. You know that, right? And I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with going shopping and buying gifts for each other. Nothing wrong with that at all.
Unless – or until – that’s ALL that this time of the year is about.
Yeah – people are connected and in sync – one way or another – with the season. But let me tell ya – for we who are followers of Jesus Christ – it is my hope that we are connected and in sync with the season for the right reasons. But before I say more about that, let me turn your attention to what being in sync might look like.
(Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqFc4wriBvE)
How many of you took piano or organ lessons as a kid? You remember those metronomes, right? I really didn’t like playing to a metronome. But when I did, it showed me just how out of sync – out of rhythm – I was with the music. But listening to the metronome made me a better musician. When you have the right rhythm – when you’re in sync with the rhythm – the music is sweeter.
Now – the first time I watched that video, I was in awe. And I thought, “How do these inanimate objects get into sync with each other.” And then I noticed that they were all sitting on the same platform – a platform that itself has a rhythm of its own. And it was to this rhythm – the common base to which all of these metronomes were connected – that put all of the metronomes into sync.
The metronomes started out as independent units, tick tocking to their own rhythms. Now, this may seem a little whimsical – and you might be asking, “What’s this got to do with Advent?” Glad you asked.
All of us are individuals. We each have our own rhythms – the way we think – the way we believe – the things that we value, and so on. More specifically – when it comes to this time of year – we each have our own special ways of celebrating – of getting ready – to celebrate Christmas. But this four week season of Advent calls us – really, it calls out to us – “Get ready! Get connected! Be in sync with what this season is all about.”
Like independently clicking metronomes we share a common platform. A common faith. A common purpose. We share a Savior in common – a Savior who is Christ the Lord.
You see, the world looks at this time of the year as a time to get ready – ready for a different kind of Christmas – and I do believe that we Americans do celebrate two different kinds of Christmases. One has to do with what you can find at the mall – and the other one – well, the other one has to do with Jesus. And why he came, and what it means that God came to us in human flesh. So yes, there are two different Christmases that we celebrate. And I know – it’s almost always a struggle to keep them separated – because in so many ways they are intimately woven together. And yet – I would hope that we know how and where to make those distinctions. You understand where I’m coming from on this, right?
So Advent. A time to get ready. We prepare. And as Christians – as we prepare – there are actually two Advents that we prepare for. On the one hand, we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Messiah who came to us as a child born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. BUT as our Gospel reading from Matthew reminds us – on the other hand, we are also to get ready – to be prepared – looking forward to our future hope – to that time in the future when Christ will come again. It’s a both/and.
So how do we do that? First of all, we stay prepared by staying connected to God and choosing to bring our lives into sync with God. Worshipping God on a regular basis. Reading God’s Word daily. Praying daily. Spending time and developing friendships with God’s people. Serving God and serving others by putting into practice our congregation’s mission statement which is to love God and love our neighbor.
And that loving our neighbor part means we learn what it means to be in sync not only with God – but being connected to and being in sync with each other. Folks – our children don’t need more things. What they need is more time with people who love them. We adults don’t need more stuff. What we need is to connect with God through Jesus Christ, and also with each other. Sharing the Good News message – the excitement that Jesus is born – that he is born in us – and that someday he will come again.
So instead of being in sync with a world that is into manic consumer panic – let me encourage you this Advent season to be connected and in sync with those things that really matter. We have a story to tell during this Advent/Christmas season that the world needs to hear – and that we also need to hear over and over again.
I like how Paul R. Abernathy, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., puts it: “We do not recount the record of our redemption simply to recall ancient biblical texts. No. We retell the story so that it takes deeper root in us. We retell the story so that we become the story, the church seasons becoming active verbs in our lives. We retell the story so that we always ‘Advent,’ being alert to the coming of Jesus to us. We retell the story so that we always ‘Christmas,’ being animated by the birth of Jesus in us.”
Alert to the coming of Jesus. Animated by the birth of Jesus. Folks – the bottom line is this – the extraordinary good news of Advent is this – God chooses to be with us. God chooses to be with you. God enters into our world in the person of His Son Jesus Christ – and He desires to connect with us so that we might be in sync with Him.