Waiting – a Sermon for Advent

Waiting with Intention and Purpose.

2 Peter 3: 8-15a

Advent is a time of longing, hope and expectation and waiting;

we wait with anticipation for the celebration of Christmas – the day when we celebrate Christ’s birth, that God in sending Jesus, is now one with humanity. 

And Advent is also a time when we can look ahead, we wait for, we long for the day when Jesus will return to earth, when judgment shall come, and all will be restored and renewed. 

Advent is a time of waiting….

I wonder how good are you at waiting?  I asked the question this month in the Parish Chronicle….    How good are you at waiting?

You see waiting is something we all must do…whether we like it or not!

We wait in our everyday living:

we wait for the kettle to boil, for a bus to arrive,

for our tea to cook in the oven, for a safe moment to cross the road,

we wait for the phone to ring or a friend to pop round….

And then we often have to wait over longer periods of time;

we wait with bated breath to receive news…good or bad,

we wait for exam results,

we wait to receive treatment when ill.

And then there are those occasions in life when we wait with great expectation and joy;

we look forward to holidays, to the birth of a new child,

to birthday and anniversaries.

But often waiting isn’t so easy….it can be frustrating, a time of anxiety and fear.

Waiting when we don’t know what is going to happen next,

when we have no idea what tomorrow may hold, can be scary and unnerving.

And I think waiting, patiently, is quite a skill. 

Perhaps especially so for the younger generations, who in this modern, technical, on-line era, expect instant information, instant access, instant knowledge, the latest gadget within a day, all at the click of a button. 

My children over the years have got used to waiting. 

I will regularly say to them, something like “hold your horses”, or “just a second”, or “wait a minute”….. 

And they have learnt and experience that when I say these phrases, I don’t mean a literal second, or minute…. rather I mean let’s just stop, let’s wait, lets pause, let’s think and then something will happen. 

When I say wait a minute…it often means waiting five minutes or so, and then I’ll be ready to move on, get out, or make a decision.      

And as we turn to our passage today from 2 Peter (verses 8-15a) we find some similarities….

Our passage is taken from the Apostle Peter’s second letter to a group of early Christians.  Now these Christians, the early church, were waiting.  Many thought that the return of Jesus Christ would be imminent, within a few years, or their lifetime, that Christ would return as Lord and king….. The day of the Lord. 

But nothing seemed to be happening, and confusion was beginning to set in, some started to doubt.  Others began to think that a cataclysmic last day judgment was more myth than reality. 

And so, Peter writes to them to try and explain – and correct their thinking. 

Peter makes two main points:

First, to talk about a delay in the day of judgment is to speak in human terms. God is not bound by created time; he is outside time. A day is like a thousand years….. and a thousand years like a day. 

Second, to speak of delay, as though God is indifferent, is to fail to see the great benefit of such a delay. God’s kindly patience gives additional opportunities for the salvation of the lost.  God’s desire is that no one should be destroyed, but everyone come to a place of repentance and trust.

And so, Peter explains and reminds them that the coming day is unexpected.  All such comings are unexpected, including the final coming of the Lord. 

It will come like a thief in the night – a picture used by Jesus, (cf. Matt.24:43, Lk.12:39) and by Paul, (1Thes.5:2)

Some manuscripts actually record it as “during the night”, but this is probably not original. The point is simple enough, the day will come upon us unexpectedly, so be alert, be awake, be ready.

Peter then also reminds them, in quite graphic language, that everything will be changed, that ultimately the earth will be laid bare.  Nothing evil in that day will remain hidden.

The idea being that on this last day, there will be a final and definite conclusion, an end in which Jesus’ victory over evil, begun on the cross and in his resurrection, will be complete and final over all evil and darkness.    

This day will come…but not when you expect it, say Peter. 

Not in your time frame… not in a way your finite minds can comprehend.

But till then, they do have to wait…. wait patiently….

But the type of waiting Peter describes is not a passive waiting, it’s not the sort of waiting which involves sitting back in your chair and waiting to see what might happen.  Rather it is an active waiting; it is intentional and focussed;  it involves striving, longing and hopeful expectation. 

Since this great day is coming, says Peter, here are some instructions, some suggestions as to how you should live in the here and now. 

Peter tells them to embody Godly and holy living, to be eager, to strive to live as those without spot or blemish before God, to live in peace and love, to live as Christ’s disciples.

Now these words from Peter,  I believe apply just as much to us today as Christians as we wait for the Day of The Lord, although now many hundreds of years later.

If Peter were to write to us today, he would encourage us to be active and intentional, full of purpose.  To live in such a way, that in our conduct, in our speech, in our priorities, in our actions, we live as those who are holy.   

Let me expand a little more: – 

In our reflective lives… our inner lives, our hearts and minds….

and in our active lives, our outward living, our interactions with others, our deeds, our relationships,

we should be those who focus on God, who are striving to draw nearer to Him,

we should be those who pray constantly, at all times and in all places, with thanksgiving, lifting everything to God in prayer. 

we should be those who are committed to worship – publicly…on Sundays but also in our daily lives. 

we should be those who read God’s Word, the bible, who seek to understand it…and apply it to our lives. 

we should be those who cast aside away the works of darkness and instead put on the armour of light…

we should be those who do all we can to care for those in need, to work for and with the marginalised and rejected, to welcome the stranger, to support the orphaned and widowed, to speak up for, and advocate the needs of the abused. 

we should be those who exhibit the fruit of the spirit: peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, goodness, faithfulness, joy and love.

Now I know achieving any of what I’ve just shared is a tall order.  It is not possible for anyone to be or do all these things in one’s own strength and effort.

I don’t know about you, but I make mistakes, I get things wrong….  I need help – God’s help.

If we get the idea that we are able to do anything worthy in the sight of God, anything in our own effort that secures God’s approval and blessing, then we are fools.

It is only as we trust in the indwelling Spirit of Christ to work his sanctifying renewing-work within our beings that we are changed into the image of Christ.

So, although we stride toward the coming day living “holy and godly lives”, we know that in the end being “found spotless, blameless and at peace with” God is a gift of grace appropriated through faith.

And so, in our waiting we also need to be open to God’s Holy Spirit, that each and every day, we ask the Spirit to help us and strengthen us, mould us and make us more like Jesus. 

As so this Advent we wait…..

but our waiting is not passive or dormant,

but rather an active waiting in which we strive –

we are intentional and purposeful in living a life that is devoted to God and we ask for God’s Spirit to enable and help us.

Amen

I’m going to pause here for a moment…. And allow us all to think and reflect…. And then I’ll lead us in prayer…..

Father God, we thank you that a day is coming, when all will be changed, renewed and restored.  A day when all evil, all wrong, all darkness, all pain, all confusion, all tears, all hurting will cease.  A day when all wars, all abuse, all fighting, all discrimination will end.   

And Father we cry to you for that day.  Our hearts long for the fulness and the glory of your kingdom here on earth…. And we cry out Maranatha, Come lord Jesus. 

But until that day, help us to wait patiently with intention and purpose….

Fill us afresh with your Spirit, that we might use the time we have for Godly, holy living.  That we might share with others, the good news of Jesus in our actions and deeds. 

So that when the Day of the Lord comes, we would not be caught napping, but actively following you, actively watching and actively waiting.

Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus.  Amen