27 November 2022
A sermon outline with USPG for
Advent Sunday, 27 November 2022
27 November 2022
Reading: Matthew 24: 36-44 (NRSVA):
[Jesus said:] 36 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
The First Sunday of Advent reminds us of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, our fathers and mothers or ancestors in the community or family of faith.
Often these were people who were on the move in times of trouble, upheaval and of danger. Think of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah – often on the move, facing long journeys, but always journeying with God.
It is worth asking: ‘If a fire broke out in your house, what three possessions would you grab?’ Many rectors/vicars have asked this question as they prepared their sermons on this Gospel theme, and the answers they get are interesting.
People include their laptops, their family photographs, their phones, their keys, their wallets or purses, cash or money, plastic cards, passports ... the family pet?
What would you take?
If you were forced to leave your home, or found yourself suddenly forced to abandon all that gave you security, would they really be worth taking?
Laptops are easily damaged, phones need to be charged and don’t always work in other countries, keys to an abandoned home no longer have any use, photographs fade, cash or money from an unstable country quickly loses value.
What would you take with you?
What do we cling to?
Anyone with an interest in old banknotes knows how it became meaningless to be a millionaire or even a multimillionaire in Weimar Germany, war-time Greece or Ceausescu’s Romania. They were in circulation at times when inflation became rampant in times of crisis in Europe. Had they been spent at the time they were issued they might have bought something of value; had they been given away in their day, they might have helped the poor and the hungry.
But circumstances saw to it that those who became attached to their wealth on paper would lose all they had. The Gospel reading this morning (Matthew 24: 36-44) challenges us to think again about what we cling to and what are our true values.
When our prosperity and wealth disappear, like the fast-fading value of old banknotes, are we in danger of feeling abandoned by God?
How would we grab our faith and take it with us if we rushed to escape a crisis?
What do you take with you on a journey?
Christ reminds those who are listening of the story of Noah. What Noah took with him on the ark is a reminder not only to anticipate our own future and our own needs to ensure that security, but to think of the needs of all life, of all creation.
Seasoned travellers know how to pack their bags.
What are the essential items you pack in your case?
Is it a small bag for an overhead cabin on a budget airline flight and a short overnight stay?
Or is it a large suitcase or two for a two-week holiday, filled with towels, sun cream and swimwear?
The list of essentials grows longer and longer as we think about it: passport, toothbrush, plastic cards, phone chargers, presents for hosts and friends, and changes of clothes and sandals, laptop, more than enough reading … so much more than we ever need or use.
Do you then regret having packed too much when you find there is not enough room for them on the way back because of restrictions on overhead bags?
What do you think Mary and Joseph took with them for the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem?
Did they have enough to cope on finding there was no room for them in the inn?
Did they have enough with them when they made the next journey, from Bethlehem to Egypt?
Who helped them to find the missing necessities in Bethlehem, or in Egypt?
Mass migration is major problem in the world today. Politicians seem to want us to think it is a problem for us here. But the people who suffer most are the people on the move themselves, children, women and men.
They cannot take with them what they need, never mind what they want.
On the journey, they face many threats and dangers, from exploitation and violence to extortion and human trafficking.
Of course, if they were Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child, we would want to reach out and help to meet their needs.
USPG and the Church of North India sees the faces of Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child in the people being helped through this year’s Advent and Christmas appeal.
This is the Advent Hope and the Christmas present we can offer this year.