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Advent 1B
November 29, 2020
Grace Lutheran Church
Lakeland, FL

Isaiah 64:1-9
Psalm 80,
I Cor. 1:3-9 
Mark 13:24-37

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Please pray with me – May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, Our Rock and Our Redeemer. Amen.

So, it is finally here! Advent – the season of waiting. We’ve been talking about waiting over the past few weeks. We’ve talked about how we wait – we wait together, especially when we have a need. Unlike the 5 bridesmaids who ran out of oil and left the others to go and solve the problem themselves, we stay together because there is enough to go around.

Then, we saw how the servants of the master treated the tremendous sums of money with which they were entrusted while the master was away and they awaited his return. Two stepped out eagerly with what they had received and doubled what had been given them. The third was fearful and buried this wealth in a hole in the ground to safeguard it. The two servants had a sense of wonder and the third had a cloak of worry.
Last week we heard of the need to feed, clothe, nourish, visit, welcome and care for the least of those around us. Our waiting is full of care.

Waiting. Advent -- a time of waiting and wondering and anticipating.

Our text for today is that verse repeated several times in our Psalm for today: Restore us O God; let your face shine so that we may be saved.

The Psalms are one of the most appreciated books of the Bible. It is the first hymnal of the church containing hymns and songs and prayers. Not all of the Psalms were written by David who ruled around 1000BC but certainly many of them are very very ancient among the texts of Scripture. We don’t know for sure when this Psalm was written but I am certain of many of the times that it has been prayed -- around 725 BC when the Northern Kingdom was facing desolation and destruction by Assyria. Restore us O God; make your face shine upon us so that we shall be saved.

As God’s people were in exile in Babylonia not knowing if their children or grandchildren would ever see the land from which they had come, if they would ever walk the magnificent streets of Jerusalem that had once been so great, if they would ever again experience things as they had been. Restore us O God – make your face shine.

As God’s people waited for the promised Messiah as they labored under the heavy hand of Rome – Restore us O God -- that we may be saved.

As Mary heard the amazing words from the angel Gabriel – you shall bear a Son and his name shall be Jesus. Restore us O God; make your face shine upon us so that we may be saved.

As Brother Martin stood before one tribunal after another in the storms and distress and conflict of the time of the reformation. Restore us O God; make your face shine upon us.

As those imprisoned over the centuries – those in concentration camps in war-frought Europe; those in the killing fields of Cambodia, those in the prisons of appartheid in South Africa. Restore us O God; may we be saved.

Indeed as our brothers and sisters in Christ strive to bring peace to areas in conflict. Peace to all of God’s people laboring and strugging and striving in places of injustice and oppression. Restore us O God and make your face shine upon us.

And as we wait and wonder through this time of pandemic – in the midst of masks and quarantine and safer at home, we too pray, “Restore us O God; make your face shine forth so that we may be saved.”
Some years ago on the first Sunday of Advent, my husband, Earl, and I were pretty sure that he had lung cancer. We’d met with the doctors, been through more tests than I can remember, to be honest. Saw little promising news other than the doctor who said, “I won’t sugar coat it but I have a plan.” And, without really even knowing it, we joined into this prayer that has been prayed by God’s people, generation after generation – Restore us O God; let your face shine so that we may be saved.

And, of course, in the weeks that followed, God’s restoring and saving hand was ever present – just like that pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night as God journeyed with God’s people through the wilderness millenia ago. So too, Earl and I were on a journey through a wilderness. And it brought us to places unexpected by paths we had not yet trod through perils unknown. Restore us O God; make your face shine so that we may be saved.

Now, sometimes God’s restoration looks different from what we expect or want. Sometimes God’s restoration looks different from what we hope for and pray for. Sometimes God’s restoration takes a turn we didn’t expect. Yet, in all of this it is GOD’s restoration and God’s salvation and God’s face shining and God’s hand guiding and directing.

And we find that we ARE being restored, that God’s face is shining upon us and that we are being saved. Being restored and saved – not because of what we have done or hope to do – but because of what God has done, is doing and will continue to do in and among us. Restore us O God; make your face shine forth so that we may be saved.

So, my friends, let me ask you this. How shall we spend these next 24 days of Advent? It is likely to be different this year. Certainly the shopping has started. Perhaps you are making your lists. Seasonal celebrations that usually fill our calendars will be different this year. Often when there is great activity around us, we say, “Don’t just sit there, do something!” In these next 24 days, I invite you to take a different tack – I invite you to try it this way, “Don’t just do something, sit there!” Sit there. Be at peace there. Breathe there. Watch there. Be there. You might consider -- what is the restoration that God wants to bestow upon me here and now.

This year we will follow the theme of Watch – Wait – Wonder – Worship during Advent. This is a time to sit in the fullness of this Season – this season of Advent, not-pre-Christmas. I was recently reminded of how animal hibernate during the winter, huddled away – this huddling is not only to be protected form harsh weather but it is also a time of restoration. I think of the caterpillar as it enters a coccon for the transition to a butterfly. Things are happening in that coccooned time. So is my prayer for you this Advent Season. May it be safe and secure and restorative as we watch, wait, wonder and worship.

Amen. May it be so.

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