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27 November 2011 @ 12:50 pm
Rorate Coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum  
Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80
Mark 13:24-37


The Advent hymns and prayers often spend a lot of time telling us to wait. Watch and wait for the coming of the Lord. And that's of course an important emphasis of this season as we await Christ's coming again and as we remember those who awaited his first coming: God's people through the ages, the prophets who foretold it, John the Baptist who prepared the way and Mary as waited for the time to come when she would give birth to Christ our God.

But how do we often think about waiting. Often it sounds quite boring, quite passive. Do you often have to wait for a bus? Where I grew up in mid-Wales we didn't get many buses and sometimes if no one had got on further up the road, then the bus would come through the village quite early. So sometimes if you were out waiting for the bus, and it hadn't come, you began to wonder if it was coming at all.
If we start to think of Advent in those terms, then we have lost the excitement and the purpose of this season. Advent is one of my favourite seasons and part of that is because it's a season which is so much about the here and the now. Advent is a season that encourages us to look at the world around us, a season that encourages us to recognise all that is in need of redemption and re-creation by Christ. To see everything that will be put right in the new heaven and the new earth that Christ will bring. It's a season to pray with renewed enthusiasm, your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. Not just to mumble it hastily or routinely but to recognise the reality of what we're praying for.

God's people through all the ages have longed for that redemption. The words of the prophet Isaiah express something of that longing, a deep and powerful sense of expectation, of joyful hope shot through with awesome reverence. “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down so that the mountains would quakes at your presence!” Come Lord and save us. The words of a text that echoes through the traditional liturgies of Advent take up that theme: “Drop down you heavens from above and let the clouds pour down righteousness.” Let the heavenly kingdom come down, may the justice of heaven pour down on us like the rain, may it flood the land. May the whole creation be renewed, refreshed and grow again according to the will of God.

The people speaking through the words of Isaiah recognise that this means things for them personally and for their life together as well as for the whole created order. They recognise that they themselves live in ways which should not have a place in the new creation, that they do not always live according to the will of God. “There is no one who calls on your name or attempts to take of hold of you,” they say to God. They recognise that they have tried to live without God and have not looked for him or sought him. But they remember that God is their Father and that he is the potter and they the clay. Consider, they say to God, we are all your people.

It is against that background that we come to today's gospel reading. If we set this reading into its wider context, Jesus has been speaking of the destruction of the temple and the dangers the disciples will face as his followers, The gospel goes on after our passage to speak of the plot to kill Jesus and of Judas' agreement to betray him. The atmosphere is tense. Jesus has foretold his own death to the disciples three times already – he knows what is to come. Look how many echoes there are of the passion story. Do you remember the story of Jesus cursing the fig tree after his entry into Jerusalem? Here the fig tree puts forth its leaves. Do you remember the disciples falling asleep in the garden of Gethsemane, and sleeping when Jesus came to them? Here they are told to stay awake. Do you remember that as Jesus dies the sky is darkened and the earth quakes? Here we are told that the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.

Jesus' coming again is in many ways part and parcel of his coming the first time. He comes to redeem the world, he comes to restore us to himself. He comes to share our suffering and to bear our pain. He comes to fill the world with righteousness, peace and justice and to restore us to the image and likeness of God, which sin has obscured. We wait for that with a deep longing, but with the knowledge that it is not far off like a bus that may never come. For Jesus comes to us in every moment and at every time. We are always called to return to God, we are always called to faithful service, we are always called to be signs of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

We live in days when many people see some of the things that are wrong with our world. Many people see the injustices that come from the distribution of wealth, of political power, of influence in the media and big business... I could go on. Some are beginning to speak and to live as if things could be different. As followers of Jesus, that is what we are called to do. To speak and to live as if things could be different. To speak and to live today in the light of the Advent hope for tomorrow. To speak and to live as citizens of the new Jerusalem, where the Lord God will be the light and the nations will be healed. As we come to Holy Communion, we proclaim that different world. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory. We enter into Christ's first coming, we look for his coming again, we pledge ourselves to live for him as his servants and witnesses and we look to the feast in heaven when all will be gathered from east and west, from north and south.

Drop down you heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness. Amen.