Sermonett/Advent 1 Reflection- Romans 5:1-6

It is a chilly night in Maine on September 20th. The sky is clear, a few early leaves are floating down from the trees. The stars are out, and shivering with thoughts about autumn. I cannot sleep, the boards of the lean-to shelter seem to toss and turn as much as I do. I have hiked 2,166 miles along the Appalachian Trail over mountains, through farms, across rivers, over rocks, over roots, and under trees from Georgia all the way up to the heart of Maine. I have pressed on through snow, mud, rain, hail, thunder, bears, moose droppings, hunger, blisters, heat, and cold. Now there are only ten miles left between me and Mount Katahdin. One more day of hiking, one more mountain to climb, and I can say I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. I had waited, working and walked for six months to taste the air at the top of that mountain. I was too full of life, too full of hope and energy. It was as if the very air was made of sugar or caffeine. It kept me up all night. I could only pretend to sleep, and even then all my brief and unfinished dreams were about what was to come. I tossed and turned, and bubbled over so much that I couldn’t even wait until daylight before I packed everything up and started my ascent. I was up and moving before 4am. It was right there! The last mountain! How could I fall asleep, the anticipation of completing the whole Appalachian Trail was too much to bear. But that one night, that one waiting evening, I was more alive than I had been in a long time. It remains more vibrant in my memory than the next day when I summited the mountain and tasted that air.

It is all too easy for us to forget how great waiting can be, how alive it can make us. You see, as paradoxical as it sounds, waiting is a good thing, and it does not disappoint. We lose something when we no longer wait like a child waits for presents on Christmas morning. We lose something when we do our best to avoid waiting. When waiting becomes time to fill with other things, like candy crush or Instagram, or twiddling our thumbs, we lose something. Because if we truly wait, there is a bubbling-up. True waiting is an event where God makes us like we are somehow more alive, more ourselves.

If we were truly waiting for Christ, we would all feel that same bubbling up every Sunday morning. Every Sunday would be as exciting as that last mountain on the Appalachian Trail. Every Sunday we would lose sleep like there were Christmas presents just waiting for us under the tree begging to be opened. Why, we would come bounding down the aisle when it is time for communion. Look! Christ is here! I cannot wait to taste and see! We would tug at our parents sleeve on our way up to our first communion: “Come ON daddy! Come on Mommy! Christ is coming and he’s right up there broken for us! LET’S GO!”

That is why we hope and wait in Advent. Because hope does not disappoint. God shows up where God promises to show up. In the last place we would expect to find God- in our very waiting, suffering and hoping itself! For we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and in our waiting, God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For, as Paul says, while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. While we were still waiting, Christ died for those who are fed up with waiting. Because what is coming is life, and in waiting we get a foretaste of that life. In waiting, we bubble over. We discover that a little of that life at the other end is already warming in our mugs. There is nothing we can do but wait for it. God does all the rest.

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