Advent is a time of preparation as we await something new. This waiting is for new birth and the second coming. Therefore this is a season of new beginnings. A new beginning requires introspect, reflection, and judgment. I don’t know about you, but Advent is a nostalgic time of lights, and feasts, and family. A time of joyful song with a foretaste of peace—for a moment. But now preaching for my third Advent, I see a pattern. The first week is heavy on prophetic texts centered not on the pretty packaging of Christmas, or the pretty lights, but instead takes us into the the depths of those places we don’t want to go. But as if birth is not hard enough, may we be challenged that even harder is re-birth. And as the chaos surrounds us in our lives and our world, Advent begins, in darkness.

Darkness. In the beginning, when all was chaos and a formless void. In the beginning when darkness covered the face of the deep, the breath of God swept over the face of the waters. In the beginning—darkness.

This Advent begins with darkness. Darkness with the crowd growing awaiting the decision of grand jury. And the wait itself is puzzling as anxieties increase. The outcome a foregone conclusion…but maybe this time will be different? Darkness as the words were read, and all was chaos—void of humanity as darkness eclipsed over the face of the deep.
Darkness—again. How long O Lord?

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O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrong-doing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous—
therefore judgment comes forth perverted. (Habakkuk 1: 2-4)

And we cry out, How long O Lord? (John Crawford III)

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John Crawford: Shot in Walmart because for carrying pellet gun that was store merchandise.

Why do you make me see wrong doing in a world with a double standard of this, while others walk freely spreading fear doing this?  May we ask ourselves, how long? (Open carry)

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While others make statement by open carrying assault rifles.

How long O Lord? A 12 year old boy with a toy air-soft gun and shots fired after only 1 1/2 seconds. (Tamir Rice)

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How long O Lord?

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How long O Lord? How long can the contrast be so vast?  So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

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Compare this

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With this? (Cliven Bundy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you “Violence!”
and you will not save?

Advent begins with darkness. In a week that begins with the darkness of unjust systems, many criticize the reaction. Many see this as isolated—the grand jury has spoken. But it is bigger and much deeper. And while many may be defensive, it is in the same dark week that we ironically participate in this.

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And we cry out, How Long O Lord. Chaos surrounds. And it is in the beginning, when God breathed over the face of the waters, and God’s breath spoke, “Let there be light.”

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And from darkness, Advent begins today with the lighting of the first candle lit in protest.

Beginning with a light of hope, the single flame begins to illumine our world that surrounds us. Despite the violence, destruction, and despair, darkness will not prevail. Martin Luther King Junior wrestles with answers saying, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

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       O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people. (Isaiah 64:1-9)

Even in weeks like this, when darkness consumes the night, it does not—it cannot prevail. For in the chaos, your first words in the chaos are to bring light. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

The light was the life of all the people. The light is life of Michael Brown. The light is life of Darren Wilson. The light is life in the worst that is in all of us. And the light this day of the first Sunday of Advent is a light that reminds that in all the darkness that surrounds us, we are to live in hope. This candle in our sanctuary is a light of protest. A protest that defies all darkness. As Isaiah reminds, that you are the fire that kindles…and this kindling is a movement that works in the waiting… Protest is repentance—a movement of turning from darkness towards light.

And in our darkness…our darkness of indifference, our darkness that has built in advantages for some, in the darkness of oppressive forces, in the darkness of holding on to advantages of white privilege and systemic injustice, we are reminded that your judgment is one of righteousness. That this judgment is of restoring relationship. That when darkness surrounds us,

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

We are all the work of your hand…

Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people. (Isaiah 64)

We are all your people…help to mold us… help to shape us. Shape us as Advent people that in this waiting, we can reach out differently…as people with desires, hopes, and dreams.
As God has breathed breath into us, we all share a desire to hope and dream, and this inspires within us action. Our hopes and dreams are guided by how place the action into motion now. In the deepest sense, this is what our prophets are doing. Our prophets are the coach challenging the people into action that is consistent with God’s desire for our hopes and our dreams. Bring light into darkness…

Friends, we are good people. We know the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We want to bear our cross, love our neighbor, yet when it gets tough…we identify as the disciples who in darkness fall asleep rather than being present in the waiting, who in darkness, deny Jesus three times Jesus three times, we struggle with having our feet washed and washing others feet, and we like the sentimentality of the last being first and the first being last…. Because we like being first. We have trouble associating that we too are in the audience that chants “crucify him, crucify him.” And we are the recipient of hearing “Forgive them, they know not what they do.” And we identify with Pilate who felt he could do nothing when the riot was beginning as we wash our again wash our hands.

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23: 44-46

We want to follow Jesus and we want to do right. And we struggle wanting the benefits of resurrection without the cost of crucifixion. Peace without the cost of justice.
Yet, in all of our shortcomings, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.

We are all your people. A young, unarmed black man gunned down in the middle of the street in the light of day, and whose body lay for four and a half hours—the work of your hand—your people. And a white police officer who fired the shots. An officer not charged, but one who undoubtedly will be looking over his shoulder his entire life in fear—the work of your hand—your people. A prosecutor whose name draws lot of differing feelings and questions of agenda and motive—the work of your hand—your people.

The community of Ferguson, Missouri, in deep despair and raging in grief over a feeling of injustice. Injustice of a teenager they know, with a name. And yet a much bigger injustice that runs deep with a history of systemic racism in this country. A community that is the work of your hand—your people.

The people in our families and faith family that disagree vehemently, saying we have come a long way—all the work of your hand—your people. And those of us with a range of emotions because Ferguson is a reminder that we remain unchanged where it matter most—in our hearts—the work of your hand—your people.

The person sitting next to you this morning who says they have heard enough. That the grand jury has spoken. Your people. And the person on the other side of you whose heart is broken because the story is another reminder of some that believe that some lives matter more than others, and a deeper reminder of a system that is inherently biased and plays favorites, whether we recognize this or not—your people. All, your people—gathered around a table that reminds of the night you spoke of sacrifice, of brokenness, of bread and body, and wine and blood—for the sake of restoring as one. All—your people. The last healing miracle of Jesus is in Luke 22. It is the story of Jesus’ capture in the Garden of Gethsemane.” In darkness, “One of the disciples reacts, and in defense of Jesus slices off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus says “No more of this!” and heals the servant. May “no more of this” and healing be the church’s response.” (Grady Parsons—Stated Clerk PCUSA)

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. (Luke 24: 1-5)

God, you are the potter and we are the clay. Mold us, shape us, and form us as your people to live as Advent People—people who desire, hope, and dream and live not in darkness, but reflecting your light. We are shapen because with the darkness of death is the light of resurrection shining through. I would like us all to take a moment ourselves to desire, hope, and dream of transformation that God is calling you. As Advent people, may we be changed in the light that illumines within us hope.  Amen