Weekly Sermon


Christian Education

Outreach Ministries



Music Ministries



Contact Us

Related Links






Advent 1B Sermon
Isaiah 64: 1-9; Mark 13: 24-37
3, 2017


Sermon Archives


May the grace, mercy and peace of God our father be with us, in the name of his son, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

Have you ever heard of the word, “Theophany?” It is a word that refers to Biblical references to those occurances when God is seen or made manifest. Theo is the root of God, and phainein means, “to show.” While there are certainly times in the Bible when God makes himself manifest in human ways – like the angels or visitors to Abram and Sarai, or with Jacob who wrestled with a being beside the Jabbok River, many times theophanies in the scripture are described in terms of fantastic events or extraordinary happenings: Moses encounters God in a bush that is burning but not consumed; Elijah in a still small voice of calm; and passages like Isaiah 64 and Mark 13 that you heard today describe the manifestation of God in terms like these: tearing open the heavens and coming down, mountains quaking in his presence, the sun darkening, the moon not giving light, the stars falling from heaven and the powers in heavens being shaken when people see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

We regularly call upon God to close the gap between us and become present in our lives in real and tangible ways. “Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” That is the cry of Isaiah shortly after Cyrus the Persian has defeated the Babylonians and declared that all exiles were free to return to their own lands. Some of God’s people were able to stay behind, so when the exiles returned they had a hard time re-assimilating. On top of that, people had been more concerned with their own homes and families, and the community was in shambles – from the government and religious structures to the very walls and the temple. After a hopeful return for the exiles, things looked pretty dismal. They wanted God to make a personal appearance – to show up in real and tangible ways. They cried out for God to tear open the heavens and to come down into their lives.

Our Gospel lesson comes from the last few verses of Mark 13. At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus had predicted that the temple would be destroyed. By the time Mark had written down the words of this gospel, it was the early 70s, A.D. In the year 70, the Romans laid siege to the city of Jerusalem, utterly destroying the temple that Jesus was speaking of in this chapter of Mark. So the earliest readers of these words were lost – without a center to worship, and without a center for their culture. They were a lot like the people for whom Isaiah was speaking in our Old Testament reading today! Things looked bleak, and Jesus is using the language of theophany to promise the people that God is going to show up … and that when God shows up, it will be unlike anything they have seen. He is encouraging them not to give even though the temple might be destroyed. The presence of God is about to become real.

Things look kind of bleak for us today, if we were to be honest with ourselves. Our world’s economies are very fragile and there are more people living in poverty every day. North Korea continues to threaten the safety of the world, random people carry out acts of hate and terror on a regular basis, and the number of people who have used their positions or status for sexual exploitation in the show business industry, politics and business in general seems to increase all the time. Meanwhile more and more of our young people are taking their own lives, not seeing any peaceful resolutions to their troubles. We could really use a theophany right about now, couldn’t we? Oh that God would tear open the heavens and come down … that the Son of Man would come in the clouds with great power and glory.

The problem is, God doesn’t always show up in the ways that we think he should, or in the ways that different parts of the Bible say he should. In our Gospel reading, Jesus encourages his disciples to keep awake for they do not know when the master of the house will come … and he mentions specific times of the day: evening, midnight, cockcrow, and dawn. Interestingly enough these are four very important times of day that will soon be mentioned when Jesus experiences his passion and death. The last supper begins, “When it was evening he came with the twelve …” Jesus’ prayer and betrayal in the garden happened in the middle of the night. At the close of the trial Peter denies Jesus and the cock crows. And he is delivered to Pilate for trial at dawn, in the morning. God shows up not only at times when things are victorious and rich and joyful, but when we are contemplating the presence of God in our hectic lives, struggling with the trials of our lives, being denied by our closest friends, and even when we are suffering the worst that the world can hand us, like Jesus and his crucifixion.

Advent is a season when we focus ourselves on watchful living, as we pray for God to show up. It is also a season where we are reminded that God doesn’t always show up in ways that we expect! After all, no one expected the son of God, savior of the world to show up born in a cow shed to a poor couple in a tiny, insignificant town in Palestine!
As we begin this season of waiting and expectation, we are called to look for God showing up in places where we would not expect him. Sometimes the first candle of the advent wreath is called the Hope Candle. More than just wishful thinking, hope based on the promises and faithfulness of God in Christ Jesus is the real basis for our Christian lives – it is the reason why it is worth getting out of bed in the morning. Where the world says that God is absent or dead, we still have the hope in us that God is present and alive. This is the hope to which we cling as we live, watch and wait for the coming of Jesus into our lives as he promised.

It isn’t Christmas yet, and this Advent season is so important because what makes Christmas even more special is our focus on the patience that it takes in the midst of struggles and sufferings to expectantly anticipate God to tear open the heavens and come down into our lives. May God’s presence give you hope, so that whenever the theophanies happen in your life, you will be able to recognize them, celebrate them, and experience them as the real presence of the loving God. Amen!