It is the first Sunday of Advent. The cycle that is the church year begins once more. We look forward to the coming of the promised one at Christmas, the one who brings into existence God's realm. This Advent season is a time of preparation. It reminds us that the realm of God is present but not fully revealed. Therefore, we must be awake and ready, for we don't know the time or the season. Consider the words from the Gospel reading for the day:
42 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. 43 But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. 44 Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One[c] will come at a time you don’t know. (Matthew 24:42-44 -- Common English Bible).
This year the First Sunday of Advent has special significance for me. It marks a new chapter in my ministry at Central Woodward Christian Church. I return, as promised, from my three month Sabbatical Journey. I believe it is auspicious for my return to coincide with the beginning of Advent. We begin not only a new year together, but in many ways a new five year journey forward into the future of the ministry at Central Woodward. The connection I make between my return and Advent is that we go forward not knowing exactly where all this will lead. I return rejuvenated and with ideas to share. I also know that while I've been away from the church, the congregation has been on its own journey forward. Over the next several months we'll have opportunity to share our journeys, and to discern together where God is leading us.
The word we hear from Matthew's Gospel is a good reminder that we don't control the future. We don't know when the Day of the Lord is coming. And so we must be alert to what God is doing in our midst. I do know this, however, that there is continuity between what God has done and what God will do, for God is not capricious. The character of God is one of faithfulness and steadfastness in love. In this we can find our anchor moving forward.