C Advent 3 Gaudate Sunday 2006
Yesterday I observed a familiar holiday ritual: waiting for the delivery truck.
Today I want to read you a story about a group of people who were the recipients of a delivery they did not expect, from a person they never thought they'd see.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chapter Ten:
"always winter and never Christmas"
"Aslan is on the move!"
"Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!"
They were expecting not a delivery but deliverance, and they were on their way to meet their deliverer, when unexpectedly they met his fore-runner.
Like John the Baptist, he called the people to repent, to change direction, that is, and he called them to rejoice.
They are preparing for their meeting with the true King, and their preparation involves receiving gifts - not toys but tools - that they will need for their part in ushering in (or restoring) the real Kingdom.
Like these beavers and boys and girls in Narnia, we must prepare to meet the one true King.
Let every heart prepare him room!
We are given gifts - tools - to wield or wear as we prepare. We are given strange gifts - that seem curious or merely pleasant, until the time is ripe to use them.
John the Baptist preached a gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He gave practical, radical advice to each group that came to him. They wanted to get on the right side of God. Anticipating the wrath to come, they asked, "What shall we do?"
Produce fruits that give evidence of repentance, he said to them. He told them each to do something that showed indelibly that they were IN the Kingdom, that they were living as citizens of the real kingdom, and leaving the claims of Rome - of the earthly powers - as merely conditional, temporal, a means to an un-earthly end.
And John the Baptist warned the Baptized. He gave them the familiar washing, cleansing ritual, a sign that they were turning from their sins, reorienting their lives toward God.
But - after him is coming one who would change everything, just as fire transforms what it burns. The whole created order would be made new.
The fruits of the earth will be gathered - to be stored in heavenly barns.
He - he who is coming - will separate the wheat from the chaff.
We are asked to do no less in our own lives: to winnow out, with fan or fork, what we bring forth as the product of our turning, turning home - to God...
To leave aside, leave behind, everything that does not matter, not really: and, cleanse our hearts, make ready our homes,
-- Maybe even put out some cookies and a glass of milk -
For the unexpected visitor
We somehow still expect to arrive, in our hearts, this Christmas Eve.
Sunday 17 December 2006
St. Paul's Church, Benicia, California.