Mt. McKinley in Alaska, originally known as Denali, "the Great One." .... "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I; for you are my refuge..." (Ps. 61:2-3)

       "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus asked.  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."  And Jesus answered, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! ... You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church..."  Jesus then began to speak of the rough road ahead. And Peter took him aside and rebuked him... "Get behind me, Satan!" Jesus replied. "You are a stumbling block..."
                                                (Matthew 16:13-23)

May these words of this Peter be like a rock,
not a stumbling block!

"Are you ready?"

Message preached November 30, 2003
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

based upon Luke 21:25-36

Order of Worship

            Growing just about everywhere in Alaska and the north country is a peculiar plant called a "Fireweed." What makes this common weed different is the fact that it blooms throughout the summer season. But itís the way in which the fireweed blooms that makes it distinctive. The buds on this tall plant begin to open at the beginning of summer, but only the blossoms closest to the bottom. As the season progresses so does the blooming of the rest of the weed, searching for the sky.

            By summerís end, it has flowered to the top, and as soon as the last bud opens, you know the first snowflakes are not far behind. Thus, the fireweed becomes like a seasonal calendar to those who dwell in a land where a yearís worth of living is crammed into a few short months. The progressing blossoms of the fireweed are a sign to many of the need to make the most of the time, before the cold winds begin to blow.

            Wouldnít it be nice if the signs of the times were as easy to read as the blossoms on the fireweed? With the blooms halfway up the stalk weíd know how far the summer has progressed and thus plan appropriately. When the buds at the tip-top would start to open weíd be ready for winter, for the cold winds of hard times to blow across the face of the earth. Wouldnít it be nice?...

            This morning we dedicated a beautiful child to the Lord, as well as her parents, and us as her church. Whenever we help bring a child into this world, donít we wonder what sort of future this little one will grow to see? What will the world be like when she stands where we stand? Will there even be a world to stand upon, or will heaven and earth pass away during her lifetime?... O, wouldnít it be nice if the signs of the times were as easy to read as the blossoms on the fireweed. Maybe, Maybe not.

            Well, the signs of the Christmas season have fully geared into action, have they not? December hasnít even begun. There are only 24 shopping days left till Christmas. Are you ready, yet? The busiest shopping day of the year has just past, and we survived it! With signs of a recession still around, our local merchants are hoping to survive also, praying it is over. The Christmas parades have made their appearance, and now Santa Claus is everywhere.

            Are you ready, yet? No, I donít mean, have all the presents been purchased, all the decorations been put up, all the cards been sent, all the gifts been wrapped, No, I donít mean any of this. Are you ready for Christmas? After all, the signs of the times have been everywhere. Whether we are ready or not, the season of advent has begun.

            "Advent" means looking "toward," sensing the "nearness" of an "arrival," of a "coming." The word advent is similar to another word we know well. "adventure." Certainly the coming of the Christ child was filled with adventure. It was an "undertaking involving danger and risks, a remarkable experience," at least it was for those who were ready for it when it happened, and were caught up in its happening.

            It was a dangerous time, when a young woman could have been killed for the appearance of a child in her un-wed body. It was a risky time for soon the powers of Herod the great would be searching to murder this child of promise. It was a remarkable time, the son of God would become the "son of man," son of a woman, experiencing the wonder of nine months in the womb, and the miracle of birth in a town far away from home, whether home be Nazareth, or heaven. It was quite an adventure.

            The signs of the times were everywhere, but few saw them... few really saw them. The advent of Jesus came and went, and few were prepared... few were really prepared. The fireweed of a new day was blossoming toward the top, and for most everybody, it was business as usual...

            Are you ready for Christmas this year? I mean really ready? I donít mean have you gotten all the trappings of Christmas in order? I mean, are you ready? I donít mean are you in the mood for Christmas again this year? I mean, are you ready? More than anything else, Christmas is a time for hope to spring eternal. It is a time to confess, to celebrate that even when there appears to be little to hope for in our lives, or in this old world, there is - indeed - hope.

            A new beginning is always a possibility for those who are open to it. God is alive and active, whether we see his hand moving, or not. There is hope, always hope, hope beyond hope, faith beyond sight. True hope, not false. Christmas is a time for hope to spring eternal. It is a time to wait upon that hope, to live in it; to allow that hope to live in us, to make us alert to the timeliness of everything we do.

            To wait upon the Lord is to make the most of the time. Now, there is a difference between such "waiting," making the most of the time, and the frantic race to get everything done that needs to get done. The older we get the quicker time flies by and the more we become caught in a race against time. And isnít Christmas, as a season, one of the most hurried, Ďrat raceí times of the year? To wait upon the Lord is to place our world into perspective, and to make the most of the time. And the only way that can happen is if we allow the Lord of time to become the ruler of our time.

            Advent is a season dominated by the image of expectancy. What better picture do we have of expectancy than that of a mother with child? What is the central image of Advent? A picture of mother Mary, heavy-laden, upon a donkey with Joseph by her side. No greater image do we have of hope, of waiting, of living with a perspective of time not dominated by a clock.

            Like any other baby that was ever born, Jesus came into this world when the time was right, not one minute before or after. To live a life of expectancy is to be open to Godís movement in us, and around us when the time is right. It is not to be dominated by the events, and the people, who add vexation, and struggle, and sorrow, and pain to our lives. For we know that God will move when the time is right. God is already working his purpose out.

            As we celebrate this season of advent, it is good to remember that the final word has not yet been spoken. There is to be a second advent, a coming again of this Jesus. This time he will not come as a child. But let me assure you, it will be no less an adventure. Jesus will come and what is wrong in this old world will be righted. Justice will be done, Godís kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. Are you ready for his coming? I, mean really ready. I donít mean have you gotten all the trappings of the second coming in order? I mean, are you ready? I donít mean, are you in the mood? I mean, are you ready?

            More than anything else Christís second advent, like his first, is a time, experienced even now, for hope to spring eternal. It is a time to confess, to celebrate that even when there appears to be little to hope for in our lives, in this old world there is hope. A new beginning is always a possibility for those who are open to it. We may not be able to read the signs of the times with the accuracy of the fireweed, but our hope is that God will continue to be alive and active, working his purpose out, whether we see his hand moving, or not. There is hope, hope beyond hope, faith beyond sight, True hope, not false.

            To live in that hope is to live a life of expectancy. To wait, to watch, to pray. To live in that hope is to place our world into perspective and to make the most of the time. The only way this can happen is if we allow the Lord of time to become the ruler of our time. To live each day as if it were our last - not in a negative sense, living without hope of tomorrow, or living without making preparation for tomorrow. To live each day as if it were our last is to recognize the preciousness of each day we have, and not to waste it.

            This morning we dedicated a beautiful child to the Lord, as well as her parents, and us as her church. Yes, we prayed for Godís blessing upon them and their future, whatever that future might bring. But we also prayed for ourselves, for the courage to make the most of each day, to use each day as an opportunity to live out our hope, to live out our expectancy, placing our world in proper perspective - Godís perspective - knowing that each moment is an opportunity for God to move in us, to strengthen us, to mold us into the likeness of Christ.

            We dedicate ourselves when we dedicate our children, because it is in us that they will see God at work in the world. Yes, our little ones will grow and become what they were created to be, just as the baby Jesus grew into full stature. But they are not the only "becomers." All of us are "becomers," for God is at work in us, and in this world, in his own time. That is the real message of advent. Are you ready?

online resources for this scripture text

For commentaries consulted, see Luke.


©2003 (1988, 1991) Peter L. Haynes
(you are welcome to borrow and, where / as appropriate, note the source - myself or those from whom I have knowingly borrowed.)

return to "Messages" page

return to Long Green Valley Church page