- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

The following are excerpts from a sermon preached yesterday at Ebenezer United Methodist Church by the Rev. John Blanchard Jr.:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

As we enter the Advent season 2005, it is somewhat difficult to envision this day as representing for us and the world a sort of “new beginnings” — an interruption, perhaps, but surely not a beginning.

For the Church, this is the first Sunday of Advent, and the faithful are called to prepare themselves for the promise of the soon-coming Christ.

Yet it may seem that we have done this all before. Didn’t we enter the Advent season with anticipation last year this time? Has anything changed? When we gathered on the first Sunday of Advent, weren’t we engaged as a nation in “the war on terror”? Weren’t our men and women in uniform in harm’s way on foreign soil?

When we celebrated Advent last year, were there not wars, famine and natural disasters occurring around the world? When the Advent candles were lit in our churches around the globe this time last year, weren’t there hungry, homeless and hopeless folk not only around the world, but on our very doorsteps?

Why celebrate a new beginning when too much of what we experience around us feels painfully the same?

To understand why we must do this yet again, we need to appreciate what Advent represents for the Church universal.

For the Church, Advent represents not simply the four Sundays before we relive and focus on the birth of God’s Son, Jesus. It stands as the time of anticipation of what the One who has already come in the flesh, [who] “was crucified, dead and buried; descended into hell; the third day rose from the dead; ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” will do in our time.

You see, to be a person of faith is to live in constant anticipation, even while we live in the present reality of a fallen and broken world. To be a person of faith is to see new beginnings where there doesn’t seem to be reason to expect that the new will be any different than the old.

It is faith in the divine purposes of God that keeps the faithful hopeful in spite of the present reality of pain, suffering, destruction, hate and decadence. But from where does this hope derive?

Those of us who are called by the name Christians dare to believe and be encouraged by the words we read and grasp from our own holy writings, the Bible. Further, we dare to allow ourselves to expect that the God of the Bible will act in new and imaginative ways that we have not yet experienced or dreamed of.

The writer of the Gospel of John offers the faithful as grand a basis for their hope as any of the Gospels in the declaration that the one who was with God in the beginning of things as we know them was and is the same one who came in the flesh as Jesus the Christ.

If one can grasp and believe that this Jesus was, in fact, involved with God in the very creating and ordering of everything that exists and that this Jesus was dispatched from the very bosom of God to intersect in the affairs of humankind two thousand years ago … then perhaps there is hope that this risen Jesus will not leave us alone in our existing “funk.”

Perhaps it is the purpose of Advent to remind us that the same one who created is in the process of creating, and the one who came will not only come again, but is present and available to us if we only reach out to him in faith.

Perhaps it is the purpose of Advent to remind us that evil will not prevail, that trouble won’t last always and “that it ain’t over until it’s over.” Perhaps it is the purpose of Advent to declare to us that the story of humankind has not yet been completely told and that God’s divine purpose of reconciling all of creation back to God’s self is happening even as we live in the midst of “this present darkness.”

“In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4-5)

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