Sermon by German Intern Miriam Schmidle – Mark 13:24-37, First Sunday in Advent

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Do you know the typical German ‘Lebkuchen’, the special German gingerbread? With sugar or chocolate. These Lebkuchen have been part of my Advent experience since I’ve been a little child, and without them, Advent wouldn’t be complete. I don’t know how you think about it – but when it’s getting colder and darker in Germany, I begin to look forward to the nice things of the cold and dark time. Like hot tea, soft blankets and a crackling fire. Also Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and then these delicious cookies, called Lebkuchen.

It’s a shame that we nearly hate Christmas when Advent finally comes around. Since the end of the summer, in Germany you can buy Christmas stuff and Christmas chocolates. What’s even worse: Sometimes you can hear Christmas songs like “Last Christmas” on the radio.
Instead of Advent, instead of arrival, instead of reflection and peace and preparing for the birth of Christ, what’s on our minds are the latest advertisements for lights for our garden or something like. We’re all surfing on the wave of consumerism.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. An old celebration with an old tradition. Originally Advent was not only a time of reflection, but also a time of fasting. We are made aware that  our Lord is coming. But the times are changing. Today we need this time before Christmas to do a lot of things like searching for presents, buying food, baking cookies or writing Christmas letters. And all the other things. The beginning of Advent and the stuff in the shops remind us that  we still have so much to do. The good news is not the focus anymore.

The Germans say: Früher war alles besser. Everything was better in the past. Well, but maybe in the time of Mark it was the same like today. The birth of Christ war not very important to the people. And I think that’s because why he wrote these sentences: “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,  and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken”

But in those days, after that tribulation…then – the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light… Has it really to become worse and darker? Is it not so that everyone of us hat his or her personal dark times, moments, during the last year. Moments, hoping that the sickness will be not forever, moments, praying for something good for others. Moments like the Sundays in November we’re remembering our lovely friends who passed.

But it’s ok to be afraid. To be fearful. Well, Jesus himself felt fearful. He was afraid and cried, praying: Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.

But being fearful is not the end. Jesus says: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” And Mark knows about that, as he was writing: And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. It’s real. We can trust in the words of Jesus! He promises us that our fear and our darkness will come to an end. His light is shining in the darkness. Near God, there is the light. Like a candle in the night. The light is very small at the beginning, but then growing and growing – until everything is illuminated. You have to see it, it’s that big … And then Jesus will come.

This year Advent at St. Matthew’s has the topic “O Lord, how shall I meet you? “ A good question in this season! Right? To meet someone has something to do with a relationship. Something  with a preparing. It’s like a long expected visitor. The house will be cleaned up and prepared, that the visitor feels comfortable.

But how to meet Christ? Do we meet Christ when we buy Christmas stuff at the end of summer? I don’t think so. Mark doesn’t answer this question…. But in the church year Advent means a new start. A new beginning. Last Sunday our last church year ended. We went through a dark time and weakness. We are allowed to look forward. We are allowed to start new. It’s like a present. After the darkness comes the light. The Book of Revelation tells us that the old world is gone. And a better world will begin.

It’s like the german kids game: Ich sehe was, was du nicht siehst, which is pretty much like the American game, ‚I spy with my little eye‘. I see something you cannot see. But Mark turns his eyes to the important things. Well, even if his time was not better than our time, he is showing us the way we should go – he’s showing us how to prepare. He goes forward on this way of light in trust. He knows that the world will be getting better. And he anticipates: a world without crying. Mark says: I can see it. I see that you cannot see, yet. It’s like a quiet voice, speaking to us. There’s the light. He arrived! Jesus is there! He came into our darkness to save our lives. He is he light in the darkness of our fear. We are allowed to trust in the good news. Always.

But for that, I think we don’t need this Christmas stuff in the shops or around our houses. What we need is to be a light for each other. To tell each other that there is hope. To realize what’s important, so that Jesus can come in our hearts.

In the book „The Little Prince“, the fox shares some wise words with the little prince: Only the heart can see well, the essence is hidden from the eyes. Only the heart can see well, the essence is hidden from the eyes. Well, I think the arrival of Jesus has to be in our hearts and not in the shops or our houses. It’s our part that Jesus can come into our hearts, if we want to see the better world in the future. Then only the heart can see well, the essence is hidden from the eyes.