A Sermon for First Sunday in Advent Sunday , 29/11/2020, preached by the Reverend Trevor Jamison,
Saint Columba’s United Reformed Church, North Shields
“But in those days …
The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give her light;
The stars will come falling from the sky, the celestial powers will be shaken.” (13: 24-25)
Well, by this time of year, proclaiming that the is going to sun being darkened doesn’t seem like much of a threat, but what about the moon and the stars? What would it be like were the moon to stop giving out light and the stars to come falling from the sky?
According to the European Space Agency, if you could get away from twenty-first century light pollution, then, the number of stars visible to the human eye runs into the thousands. If you possess an amateur astronomer’s telescope, then this figure climbs to ONE MILLION visible stars. Even that mind-boggling figure does not come close to how many stars are out there.
Our galaxy, contains, so it is believed by the best minds available, one thousand million stars, and our galaxy is one of a thousand million galaxies … give or take a million galaxies or two. So, an earth-bound observer, even if they could see and identify the entire alphabet of constellations, would still fall far short of naming a tiny fraction of all the stars of the universe.
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to feel rather small. And yet, this is a good situation to be in, and it’s an appropriate feeling to have today, on the first Sunday of Advent; to be aware of the scale of God’s creation, and the greatness of God’s plans for it, including you and me.
Obviously, at this time, many people’s concerns about Christmas are involved with very down to earth issues, not the bigger picture of God’s whole universe. Traditionally though, Advent Sunday declines to get pulled into the domestic detail of our world. Jesus, looking to the future, speaks of the sun, and the moon and the stars no longer giving out their light, and falling from their positions in the sky. God’s act of creation, as described in Genesis, is going into reverse. Jesus picture God, who said ‘let there be light, and there was light’ (Genesis 1: 3), turning out the lights of creation.
Creation, as we Christians are so fond of saying is truly wonderful. As the religious reformer, John Calvin put it, it is “the theatre of God’s glory”. When you gaze up at the stars on the clear night it really looks and feels like that. So, I find Jesus’s words comforting, even whilst I acknowledge their power to frighten; talk of the sun shut off, leaving the moon with no solar light to reflect; and all the stars being sucked back into the divine hand that scattered billions and billions of them throughout the heavens. It seems like the end of everything.
Yet if the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – this “Christ-event” tells us anything, it tells us that God brings things to end only remake them anew. So, today I want to rejoice that God is prepared not only to remake you and to remake me, but is doing so as a part of a remaking of the entire universe; and within that divine plan, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is a pivotal moment.
There’s going to be plenty to contemplate and plenty to celebrate in these coming weeks of Advent as we hear the stories about biblical prophets, about John the Baptist, and about an angelic messenger telling a young woman that she’s going to have a child in very strange circumstances. Today, however, on Advent Sunday, we are all asked to take a step back from the domestic detail of Jesus’s-birth-in-Bethlehem-story; we’re even invited to take a step back from the significant challenges that our society and planet face at this moment; and we’re challenged to fit those things into the bigger story, the bigger picture, of God’s great plan and purpose for the restoration of the whole of creation.
Yes, today is Advent Sunday and Jesus is coming. Jesus is coming because of God’s love for the world. Jesus is coming as an essential part of God’s ultimate loving intentions to remake and perfect the whole of creation; this galaxy and for all the galaxies; our star, “the sun” and every other star; every planet and this planet; every part of it, including this part of it; remaking me and you.
So, it is time to get ready, for Advent has begun. Jesus is on his way and God is going to have God’s own way with us and with the rest of all of God’s creation. Amen.