Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Midweek 3

Advent Midweek 3 – December 19th, 2012

In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King +
          For the final night of our Advent series on rediscovering Christmas, we will rediscover feasting.  Feasting is always associated with Christmas – I’m sure many of us are already planning out our family Christmas dinners, or even shifting them if they can’t be on the day of Christmas itself.  When my mom heard that Celia had to work Christmas Day so we couldn’t come out on the day itself, she didn’t ask when we were coming, she asked what day we should have Christmas dinner.  As a Church, we are making food baskets so that poorer families can have Christmas dinner.  Even Ebenezeer Scrooge waking up on Christmas day knows enough to send a boy to go by the prize goose, all so that the Crachetts can have a nice Christmas dinner.  So we all know all about feasting, right?

          Well, there’s a problem with our feasting, isn’t there?  Our feasting is a lot of hard work, often a lot of worry, sometimes even filled with panicked rushes to the kitchen when the smell of something burning starts to drift through the house.  And that is to say nothing of what goes on at the feasting.  I’m sure that none of us have ever had harsh words break out around the table, especially when some of the family that doesn’t get along all that well show up – oh surely, that would never happen.  And of course, feasting would never get out of hand, never a bit too much libations or imbibing – never happens.  No, it’s just mere coincidence that there will be extra police out on New Years’ Eve – has nothing to do with feasting gone wrong then.  No, no, we never would feast to excess – it’s sheer coincidence that just last week I saw the article that said that obesity was now the number one health problem, health danger in this country.  We all know how to handle our feasting, surely we do.

          Enough sarcasm, the point has been made.  This is one of the problems we sinners in a sinful world have.  We don’t handle blessings rightly, we don’t handle celebrations rightly.  We fall prey to the sin that the folks in the middle ages would call “gluttony” – that is, we enjoy and strive after blessings to an excess, where instead of being joy, they twist back upon us, cause us pain and sorry and suffering.  And again, this is nothing new.  Consider our Epistle reading tonight – what do we hear?  When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. [21] For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. [22] What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”   In Corinth, even the Lord’s Feast, the Lord’s Supper had gotten messed up.  You see, there’s a reason why when we have the Supper today we only get a small morsel of our Lord’s Body, a mere sip of His blood.  It didn’t used to be that way 1900 years ago.  When Jesus instituted the Supper – it was in the middle of a full meal.  And likewise, in the very Early Church, the Supper would be basically a meal.  And problems arose.  Feasting went awry.  Folks would bring their own bread to the Church – it would be brought forward during the offertory – the “Create in Me a Clean Heart” part of the service.  Even today that’s still when I prepare the elements for the Lord’s Supper.  But, in Corinth, things were messed up.  The rich would not share their bread with the poor.  Some would have far too many swigs from the chalice.  People were using the Lord’s Supper itself not primarily as a means of receiving forgiveness, but of debauchery.  Total misuse of God’s blessings.  And eventually the custom, the tradition that developed to prevent this abuse is what we have today – a small piece, and little sip, and that’s it.

          It’s ironic, because this really drives to what sin and the fall did, what the ruined.  We can’t handle our blessings anymore.  We can’t handle the good things that God gives us, without us misusing them.  Whether it’s the gift of food, whether it’s the greed that comes along with the gifts under the tree, whether it’s even our very lives, the constant temptation of sin is to take these good, first article of the creed gifts from God, given to us simply out of Fatherly goodness and mercy, and just to ruin them in selfish stupidity.

          God, though, was not content to let us mess up things forever.  God wants you to be able to feast properly, and indeed, feast for all eternity.  Listen.    On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples             a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.  And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.  [8] He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.”  This is the image of salvation.  This is why the first sign that Jesus does is bring good wine to the wedding at Cana – because our Lord wants us to have true and good and right celebrations.  The life of the world to come will be a life full of rejoicing, full of celebration, full of feasting, and feasting well.  Why will we be able to feast well?  Because Christ Jesus will have had a feast of His own.  He will have swallowed up death – indeed, Good Friday was a feast for our Lord – on Mount Calvary He swallowed up death – again, later in 1 Corinthians we hear that Death is swallowed up in Victory.  That is the point.  That we will rise from the dead because of Christ on the Last Day, and when we do – we will feast, but not feast as we do now, we will feast in perfection and simply enjoy God’s gifts rightly and properly.

          But, we are not there yet.  We are not at the feast to come.  We are still in this sinful world, and we still are plagued by sin.  And so our Lord comes to us, He comes to us in His Supper – and why?  For the forgiveness of our sins.  To give us a foretaste of the feast to come.  To give us strength to endure in the face of our earthly feasts and all the problems that can come with them.  What Paul says is true – “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”  When we have the Supper, we are publicly declaring that Christ has died to forgive us our sins, and that He shall come again and take us to the feast that will never end.  But this is what we wait for this Advent season.  Just as our forefathers in the faith waited for our Lord’s first coming, the His first advent, so we stand here waiting for Christ to return with them and with all the saints who have gone on before us, so that we can get to the real feasting.  The Christmas Goose or Ham or Beef or whatever you have having will be lovely, I’m sure – but the true feast, the great feast is coming.  And because of Christ Jesus, who came down from heaven and was born of the Virgin Mary, we are all called to it, we are forgiven and clothed in the white party robes of salvation.  That’s why this Advent, as all others, we pray, “Come Quickly, Lord Jesus.”  In the Name of Christ Jesus, our Advent King + Amen.

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