THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A
MATTHEW 24:36-44, ROMANS 13:11-14
ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
“Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Most years we have a Book Sale at St. Augustine’s. Members bring in books, CD’s and DVD’s to be sold at one of our fund raisers. I usually take a look at the books. Often I’ll buy a couple.
Over the years I’ve noticed something. We tend to get a lot of science fiction books. Apparently, St. Augustine’s has a number of people who read science fiction. Or maybe there’s just one person who reads science fiction an awful lot.
I don’t read it, but I do occasionally watch science fiction on TV. I enjoy re-runs of the original 1960’s TV series Star Trek. And no, I’m not a Trekkie. I don’t put on strange outfits and attend Star Trek conventions. I just enjoy watching the old series. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Scotty and Bones were fantasy heroes of my youth.
Compared to the special effects of today’s science fiction; the original Star Trek episodes seem primitive. Whenever the starship Enterprise was attacked by enemy Klingons, Kirk and rest of the crew had to fling themselves around the set as if the starship were absorbing the impact of enemy fire. It was pretty silly to watch even back then.
But that’s O.K., because good science fiction is not about special effects. Good science fiction is about special underlying themes which point toward some elemental aspect of human nature or the human condition. Subtly or not so subtly, good science fiction reminds us of something we already know.
That’s why a certain 1956 black and white sci-fi movie remains a classic even today. Invasion of the Body Snatchers isn’t big on special effects. But it has a theme which is true.
Here’s the scenario. Seeds from outer space have been planted in the earth. They develop into large pods. When human beings go to sleep these alien pods take over their bodies.
People still look the same. In many ways they still act the same. But they are fundamentally different. They experience no human emotions. They know no fear, no joy, no anger, no laughter, no love.
In other words, these people are no longer truly human. They simply go through the motions of life. They lack passion, commitment, and concern. Furthermore, they believe their way of being is best. They think it is safer that way.
Anyone who would resist the alien takeover must stay awake. To go to sleep is to lose your humanity. When you sleep your body is taken over, and only your body goes through the motions of life. You are no longer there.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is classic science fiction because its underlying theme is true, and we recognize it: if we simply go through the motions of life we lose our humanity. Life becomes meaningless.
How do we avoid such a fate? We stay awake. We stay on watch.
Keep awake, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming. Be aware. Don’t fall asleep. Remain human. Don’t simply go through the motions of life.
It’s easy to fall into that trap. It may seem safer, but it’s not. Numbness is a dangerous thing. A numb hand on a hot stove gets burned. Feelings are for our benefit.
When we walk through life numb we do so at our own risk.
In this morning’s epistle Paul writes to the Romans: “… you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you wake from sleep.”
Is it time for you to wake up? Is it time for you to re-awaken your faith, your hope, your relationships, your life?
Advent is a very good time to do just that. Advent is the church’s wake-up call. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and it’s time to put on hope and prepare for the coming of the Lord.
You don’t have to walk through life as one who is numb. You can be fully alive.
Last Sunday I shared with you that our former deacon, Deacon Liz Grant-Hilton, needed your prayers. Recently, Liz went in for routine surgery. But there were complications. The surgery lasted much longer than expected. She lost an awful lot of blood.
After a week in the hospital Liz returned home. She’s recovering from the surgery. That will take a while. And when she’s ready Liz will begin treatments for cancer.
We spoke Wednesday night. She shared with me the details of her experience. It’s been an ordeal, to say the least. But she was surprisingly calm, even cautiously upbeat. She sounded like Liz. She talked a lot about the wonderful people who are helping: medical people, family, friends.
Her doctor is positive. Liz and Phyl are hopeful. But they are also realistic. They are not in denial about the seriousness of her illness.
As the conversation began to wind down, Liz spoke about the future. “We’ll see what unfolds,” she said. She knows she’ll have bad days. But she’s open to what God will show her. Liz is willing to learn and grow from this experience, to change and be changed. In other words, she’s awake. She’s staying awake. She’s fully alive.
None of us know when our Lord is coming to take us home. Today’s gospel makes that clear: None of us know what our end on this earth will be like or when it will happen.
In the meantime we are advised to keep awake, to be aware, to watch for God acting in the world and in our own lives, to be as fully human as possible.
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. This Advent, keep awake. Escape from those body snatchers of mindless routine and numbness. That’s no way to live. Be fully human. That’s how God intends for you to live.
This Advent stay awake, watch and see what unfolds.
If you would like to respond to this sermon or receive future sermons by email, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org