Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Advent Time Machine

(This is a chapel talk, for elementary school students. Probably a little too abstract for most of them. Ah, well.)

Advent began last Sunday. Advent includes the four Sundays before Christmas—all the way up to Sunday morning, December 24. We have an Advent wreath here in church. Maybe you have one at home. Maybe you also have an Advent calendar.

We often think of Advent as the time when we get ready for Christmas or even when we count down the days until Christmas. We do our Christmas shopping, or we make Christmas gifts. We plan parties, cook special food, have Christmas celebrations with friends and family. Here at school we spend a lot of time during Advent practicing music to get ready for our Christmas Eve service.

But celebrating Advent is not really the same as getting ready for Christmas. There’s a lot more to Advent than doing all the things we do to prepare for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The Advent season is kind of like walking into a time machine—an imaginary machine that can send you back into the past or forward into the future. Time machines are just pretend—we can’t really travel into the future or the past. But during Advent, in our minds and hearts, we do travel into the past and the future. We look at Jesus in the past, the present and the future.

This next part is going to sound more like an English grammar lesson than a chapel talk. We’re going to talk about the word “come.” What kind of a word is come? A noun? A verb? A preposition? Who knows? It’s a verb. How do you know this? Conjugate it. I come, you come, he, she or it comes.

But what if we talk about coming to school yesterday? I --- came to school yesterday, or last week, or last year, or long ago, when I was just five years old. That’s called past tense. It happened in the past.

What if we talk about coming to school tomorrow? You will come to school tomorrow. You will come next week, you will come back to school in January after Christmas vacation. You all will keep coming to this school, and then high school, and then college, for many, many years. When we say “will come,” that’s future tense. It’s in the future.

We’re going back to our Advent time machine now. When we are inside this Advent time machine, celebrating Advent, we talk about Jesus in the past, the present, and the future. We go back to the past and say, “He came.” He came to earth long ago, as a little baby. A lot of people were waiting for him to come, because God had promised to send a Savior. So besides thinking about how Jesus came in the past, we also read about the people who were waiting for Jesus to come. Jesus’ coming was in the future for them, even though it’s in the past for us. (Got that? Today is yesterday’s tomorrow.)

We also think about Jesus coming in the future when we are in this time machine that we call Advent. We say, Jesus will come again. You remember that after Jesus rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven. But he told his disciples he would come back some day, and when he came he would come as a king, who would rule over a new kingdom, where there is peace and justice and love for everyone. Because we are inside this Advent time machine, we do things to help that new kingdom show up in the world right now. We take care of people who are less fortunate than we are. We take care of our world, of our planet. We pray for wars to stop.

We talked about the past tense—when Jesus came. We talked about the future—Jesus will come again. What haven’t we talked about yet? The present. How Jesus comes to us right now. And since we don’t really live in a time machine—we can only live in the present—this might be the most important part.

How does Jesus come to us right now, during Advent? Will you watch for Jesus coming today? Maybe you will see Jesus in your friend’s smile. Maybe you will see Jesus in a teacher. Or Jesus will come to you as you pray, or when you sing. In our first hymn today, which we sang as we lit the Advent candle, we sang “Christ is coming soon.” That doesn’t mean when we tell the Christmas story on Christmas Eve. That doesn’t mean sometime in the future. It means now, today. Watch!

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