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Edward F. Markquart

Series A
, Advent and Adventure

Advent 1A     Isaiah 2:1-5 

Advent 1C      Luke 21:25-36

(This sermon can be used on the first Sunday of Advent, Series A, B, or C.)   

It is nice to be home from vacation. Our vacation this year was not just a vacation but an adventure. And adventure to Thailand. It was an adventure to visit Bangkok and see Buddism at its best and to see the Grand Palace of Buddism there in Bangkok. It was an adventure to visit Ankor Wat, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and to see its magificent artistic beauty and intricate engineering construction...from more than a thousand years ago. It was an adventure to go to Northern Thailand and see the silks and the woodworks and to ride elephants. It was an adventure to experience the white sandy beaches of the Andaman Sea a year after the tsumani struck. Yes, sometimes vacations aren't simply vacations but adventures. We all love vacations which are adventures.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The words, "advent," and "adventure" always belong together. An advent always has a sense of adventure to it. Life itself is full of comings and full of adventures. Life itself is an adventure.  

Today's sermon is based on one word, "come." The word, "come," occurs 1462 times in the Bible. The word, "come," is also translated "advent." Advent simply means to come.

The following are three analogies which help us to understand the word, "come."

Would you please come with me down to the Des Moines Marina and letís stand out on the end of the long pier jutting out into Puget Sound.  Letís stand there together, looking primarily north and slightly west into the distant horizon, and we see a ship some ten miles off in the horizon.  We arenít sure what kind of ship it is, or if it is even a ship. Do you see it out there in your horizon; ever so faintly you canít make it out.  But it is coming closer and closer and clearer and clearer across the horizon towards us.  And slowly we make it out.  Itís not a ferry, nor a freighter...but....itís a ...a ....a huge cruise ship coming right down the channel towards us. There is a childlike excitement in the air as it comes closer and closer and clearer. The word, Ďadvent,í means coming. Something off in the distance is coming closer and closer and clearer and clearer to us as it moves  towards us. There is an anticipation, an excitement as it comes fully into view.There is a sense of adventure to it all.

Another example.  Would you please come with me to Lake Washington during Sea Faire time and we are out in my little sixteen-foot speedboat, waiting for the hydroplane races and air show to begin.  Itís now time for the air show, and you are standing in my little boat, surrounded by thousands of other little boats, and you and all of us are waiting.  We can hear a distant thunder, a distant roar, and our senses tell us that those are the sounds of airplanes.  And the sound gets louder and louder and soon in the horizon, you can see a black speck moving towards you faster than the speed of sound.  And the single speck gets larger and larger as it comes closer and closer and soon, you see that it is no longer one large speck but six smaller specks and before you know it, those six airplanes are the Blue Angel fighter planes, coming in on you, faster and faster, with thunderous sound, exploding right over your head, faster than the speed of sound. Wow!!!! As they zoom right over your head. The word ďadventĒ means coming; something off in the distance coming closer and closer and clearer and clearer as it approaches. There is an excitement, a sense of adventure, as you wait as it comes closer and closer. You canít control what is coming at you That is part of the excitement. That is part of the adventure.

Third example.  Would you please come with me back in time three thousand years, and you are in the land of Egypt, and you and I are common peasants, and in the distance, the entourage of the king, the Egyptian Pharaoh, is coming.  Everyone knows the king is coming, and you and I are waiting with anticipation.  We have never seen anything like this in our whole lives.  We are waiting for this grand parade, the greatest parade our little eyes have ever seen.  And soon, in the distance, there is a speck and then a cloud of dust and soon come into view the camels, the chariots, the horses, the gigantic elephants with royal figures riding them, and finally.....finally.....the Pharaoh himself in all his splendor.  Advent means coming...something off in the distance coming into view, coming into clarity, coming closer and closer, so you finally can see it.  And there is an excitement, a sense of adventure to it all. 

In fact, the word, ďadventureĒ is just an extension of the word, ďadventĒ.  The advent is a coming adventure and you are not quite sure of the results of it all or what is going to happen and that is why you call it an adventure.  You canít control it.  You donít know exactly what is going to happen.  Advent and adventure are closely tied together. That is why they are part of the same word. 

It is in this spirit that we approach the gospel word for today, the word, "advent." Advent is a Latin word for the English word, "come."

A computer program says that the word, "come," occurs 1462 times in the Scriptures. More than a thousand times in the Old Testament and more than four hundred times in the New Testament. The single word, "come."

Martin Luther said that a preacher is not worth a grain of salt if that preacher cannot preach on one word and that one Biblical word for today is the word, "come."

The last words in the Bible are the words, "Come Lord Jesus." The focus on the sermon for today is the single word, "come," the single word "advent."

We recall the opening hymn of the worship today, "O come, o come, Immanuel."

You see, the word advent isnít primarily or essentially a Ďchurchy word referring to the four Sundays of Advent or the four Advent Candles or the Season of Advent.  Nor is Advent simply referring to the coming 25 days before Christmas, with Christmas coming closer and closer and closer with more and more and more excitement. These are all true, but tame.  

The word ďcomingĒ in the Bible simply means coming....coming into focus....coming into sight....coming into a ship off in the horizon, coming into the Blue Angels off in the horizon, coming closer into an entourage of an ancient king, off in the horizon coming closer into view. 

And the word,  ďcomingĒ, in the Bible, primarily refers, not to the coming of a ship nor the coming of an airplane nor the coming of an Egyptian king, but the coming of God into our lives, that God is forever coming down into our little worlds in which we live, that God is forever coming to save us and help us.

In the Bible, there are essentially three "comings." The past: the coming of God to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The future: the coming of God at the end of history in the Second Coming. The present: God comes to us daily for people who have eyes of faith to see.

The past: God came to earth in the person of Jesus.

And the greatest story every told is of Godís coming to earth as a baby... the coming of God from the far distances of heaven.....God, far, far, far out into the horizons of time and history....the true God coming closer and closer and closer and closer to Mother Earth and then clearer and clearer and clearer and finally ďreally presentĒ in the Christ child.  Or, as my teacher Dr. Morris Wee would say at Christmas, God came down the stairway of the stars with a baby in his arms, from the very top step of the heavenly staircase so very far away, and God came down and down and down and round and round and round,  closer and closer and closer and nearer and nearer and nearer to you and me with the baby, and finally he stops with the Christ child in his arms before you and me, and we look into his arms and see the face of the Christ child. As God comes near to us, we clearly see the fullness of God in the person of Jesus.

Jesus grew up to be a man and taught something that people had never heard before. What are the two greatest greatest commandments, the two universal commandments for all people of all races and all centuries and all religions? "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, mind and soul AND your neighbor as yourself." And who is your neighbor? Fellow Christians? Fellow Lutherans? Fellow members of our congregration? Our small group? Our friends. No. The neighbor is none other than a another human being of a different religion, a different culture, an enemy culture, a person who had been robbed and left for dead on the Jericho road. We are invited to love that person.

Then at the end of his life, when Jesus was being taunted and crucified on a cross, he called out to his Father: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." The nearer we come to Jesus, the nearer we are to God, the God of infinite, gracious forgiveness towards people who don't even ask.

They put the body of Jesus into a grave and he was miraculously raised from the dead by the powers of God. The nearer we come to Jesus, the nearer we come to the gift of eternal life from God.

I love the quotation from Peter Pan: "Death is going to be an awfully big adventure." If you think that this life is and has been an adventure, wait until the next life, eternal life and that will be one glorious adventure.

The Lord God did not remain in the infinite distance of heaven but came down here to earth, near to your life and mine. In the person of Jesus, God is as near as God gets, so we can clearly see the Presence of God in the face of Jesus.

Advent is the coming of God into earth as a baby for you and me. There is an excitement, an anticipation, an adventure to it all.  Youíre not quite sure what to expect. 

The future: God will come to earth at the end of history, as the second coming of Jesus at the end of time as we know it.

The word, ďcoming,Ē in the Bible refers not only to God coming to earth as a child but also to Godís coming to earth on the final day of human history, not quietly down the stairways of the stars with angels choirs, but in full glory at his second coming, with all the lights on, God in all his splendored power, so that you and I cannot look as Godís full power comes closer and closer to earth. At the second coming, none of your sunglasses will be able to protect your eyes from his glorious burning, dazzling presence. 

No one knows the precise hour of the second coming, the end of history, the end of time as we know it. No one knows the precise moment of this second coming. There have always been those religious fanatics in all generations who have thought that they knew, that they knew the hour was here, soon to take place. But the disciples didn't know the time of the second coming, nor did the authors of the New Testament, nor did Jesus, the Son of God. Only God knows when that moment will be.

But there will be a time when there is no time and we will all meet Christ face to face when Christ will come to judge all human beings.

And in between, the coming of God as the baby Jesus, and the coming of God in all his glory at the end of history, is God daily coming to us. That God is forever coming closer and closer and clearer and clearer to us.

We are forever asking God to come into lives to bless and help us and save us. For example, our prayers at mealtime. How many of you say this prayer at mealtime? ďCome Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed.Ē  Yes, all of us.  We join hands with our loved ones around the table and we ask God to come and be our guest with us at our meal.  And we need God to come, to be our guest, so that there would be greater love and kindness around the table. 

Or do you remember this song and prayer:  ďCome into my heart, come into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus, come in today, come in to stay, come into my heart Lord Jesus.Ē  Have you ever prayed that song?  Asking God, the Lord Jesus, to come into your heart and stay there.  You need Jesusí Spirit to come upon you and remain on you....not just for a few minutes or a few days, not just for the bad times, not just for the tough times, not just for today.  Come in today. Come in to stay. You want and ask Jesus to come into your heart to stay forever.

And at times of death, we again ask for God to come and take our loves ones home to be with him.  What is that song and prayer, ďGood news, chariotís a coming, good news, chariotís a coming, good news, chariotís a coming and I donít wantta be left behind.Ē  And so when our baby dies, we ask for Godís chariot to come and take our baby home to heaven. When our mother or father die, we ask Godís chariot to come and take them home to heaven. When we get ready to die, if we are able, we ask for Godís chariotí to come and take us home to be with Jesus.

So this forever coming of God to us.....coming at his birth, coming at the end of history and coming into our daily very important to us. 

Do you what the last prayer in the Bible is?  It is the second to the last line of the book of Revelation.  Revelation, chapter 22: verse 20.  ďAmen. Come Lord Jesus.  Amen. So be it.  Let it happen.  Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.Ē  That is our insistent, our persistent, our consistent prayer.  ďAmen.  Come Lord Jesus.  Please come.  Come with your love.  Come with your compassion.  Come with your wisdom and strength.  Lord Jesus. It is time. I need you to come.Ē

The word, "come," occurs 1462 times in the Bible. It refers to God's coming to us; but it also refers to us coming to God. That is what I want to talk about in the rest of the sermon: our coming to God.

Of the thousand times the word, "come," is use in the Old Testament, I have chosen only one Bible verse that uses the word, "come." In our Old Testament lesson today, God says, ďCome, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that God may teach us to walk in Godís ways. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.Ē

We are invited to come to Godís mountain, to come to Godís peace.  We are invited to come to that place in our lives that we convert our warring swords, our warring words, our warring dispositions into plowshares, into peace, into the possibility of walking in the light.

We come to God. In the New Testament, I have chosen three Bible verses which use the word, "come."

"Come to me all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest." If life is heavy for you and the burden is overly great, perhaps it is time for you and me to come to Christ and lay our burdens at his feet.

"Whoever would come after me and be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. Whoever would find his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What does it profit a person if he or she gains the whole world, but loses their soul."

To come to Christ and be his disciple means to deny yourself and focus on the needs of others. Not on your own needs but the needs of your neighbor.

When you are a follower of Christ and come to Christ, you pray each morning: "Lord God, use my life in any way that you want today. Bring people to me or I to them who need your love." When you say this prayer and mean it, life becomes a big adventure. Because God sends all kinds of different people and different situations to us.

This way of living is a great adventure. That we come to God. It is an advent, and the word advent means adventure. It is an adventure to pray and talk with God every day and give your life to the Lord in prayer. It is an adventure to read Godís Word and find out what Godís Word actually says. It is an adventure to sit quietly and listen to your wife or children or grandchildren, and learn who they are and what they feel and what they are thinking. It is an adventure to focus on someone else rather than your own life. It is an adventure to learn about them.  It is an adventure to go to visit our sister church in Haiti or work downtown at the mission or sleep with the homeless men at night. It is always an adventure. You donít know what God is going to put in front of us. It is always an adventure when we come to God. Life is not boring, not senile, not sleepy. When we come to God, this too is an advent, an adventure. You never know who God will bring to you today, who God will bring right in front of your eyes and ears and love to take care of. You never know what God will do with your life today. It is always an adventure to come to God.

Coming.  Our prayer is always the same. Come, Lord Jesus. What adventures. What advents. What possibilities. Amen.

(After the sermon, a soloist may sing, KUM BA YA, MY LORD. This solo can add to the service and to the theme of the sermon.)

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