The First Sunday of Advent

Readings – Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

Mr. Schmid.  Mr. Schmid was my high school American History teacher, 10th grade, 6th period, next to the last period of the day.  Each night we had a reading assignment for the next day’s class.  We also knew that we better do it because he was known to give “pop” quizzes, unannounced 10 questions on the assignment.  I think they were 30 or perhaps 40% of our grade each marking period.  I was never a good “crammer” for tests, so I made sure I did well on the 10-question quizzes.  For Mr. Schmid we had to copy the assignment off the blackboard and do it; we had to be ready; we had to be prepared.

We catch some of Mr. Schmid in our Gospel reading for this First Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of the New Year.  St. Matthew wrote – 

…you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. 

It seems St. Matthew and St. Paul were both expecting Jesus, the Risen One, to soon return in all His glory.  From Romans-

…for salvation is nearer to us now than when we first became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.

St. Matthew’s expectations and St. Paul’s expectations were not met in the way they expected. 

Still, “you must be ready” rings true.  Be prepared; being alert rings true for people of faith. 

Born in 1868 in Lakehurst, New Jersey, Charles Austin Miles attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and the University of Pennsylvania.  He was educated as a pharmacist, but in 1892 he abandoned his career and began writing gospel hymns.  He became the editor and manager of Hall-Mack Publishing Company.  You will recognize one of his most famous compositions.  It is #69 in Lift Every Voice and Sing II.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear falling on my ear,            
The Son of God discloses.

     Refrain  -   And He walks with me, and He talks with me,                             And he tells me I am His own,
                  And the joy we shared as we tarry there,
                  None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave me
Within my heart is ringing. 


I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.


God comes to us in the gardens of our lives and on the roads of our lives.  I would say, wherever we go, He walks with us as our companion.  God’s presence is among us as we are alert, as we are prepared to see him, as we know what to look and listen for, and as we are ready to receive him in our daily routines. 

Our collect for this Sunday spoke about putting on the “armor of light”.  St. Paul’s letter to the Romans also spoke of the “armor of light”.  I envision armor as clunky and heavy, as built for defending against attacks.  St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:14 about putting on–

the breastplate of righteousness…                                                                                             the shield of faith…                                                                                                                        the helmet of salvation… and                                                                                                     the sword of the Spirit…                                                                                                               Keep alert.

Keep your eyes open.  [from The Message]

Sounds like a lot to carry around.

I remember the young shepherd boy, David.  He went up to king Saul and told the King that he, David, was ready to challenge the much-famed Goliath, the champion of the Philistines.  So, King Saul gave to David his armor to wear, and the boy put it on and could not move, so large and heavy it was.  Instead, David walked toward Goliath with the simple tool he used to protect his father’s sheep, a slingshot and a few pebbles.  No heavy armor, only what he knew from his own life’s experience. 

My point is that when we walk with God, as the young shepherd boy David did as he faced Goliath when we journey with the Holy One by our side, we use our well-known simple gifts to face the challenges before us.  When we walk with God as our companion in gardens and on the roads, even when “we walk through the valley of the shadow of death”, God is with us.  We don’t need someone else’s heavy armor to survive.  We do need to be prepared; we do need to be alert.

This Advent, as we begin another year of our life’s journey, the Holy One is walking right alongside us. His rod and His staff, are there to strengthen us. 

God journeyed quietly to Bethlehem beside Mary and Joseph; and so, God travels quietly with us, too.

Do your preparations; say your prayers; read your Bible, especially the four Gospels; be alert. 

God is there beside you, always, as your companion and guide.


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