Sermon Advent I 2020 Isaiah 64:1ff                                 Rev. Betsy Hogan

I learned about a new thing this past week. It's called a Reverse Parade. Some of you may already know what this is, but I'd never heard of it until this week, when a friend who lives in Charlottetown was planning to take her two-year-old to one –

And I guess it's a pandemic thing. And a little bit brilliant, actually, if not particularly good for the environment...

But basically what it IS, a Reverse Parade, is when all the floats and stuff for an ordinary parade all park themselves in a row, like in a big parking lot, and just stay there – And then it's the crowd that wants to SEE the parade that actually drives by. 

I thought it was kind of a clever idea, at a time when gathering in crowds isn't the best idea, even outdoors. Pretty creative, and even at a time when we're experiencing quite a LOT of amazingly creative ideas that people are coming up with, to try to deal with covid restrictions and still feel sort of festive.

But it also seemed to me kind of metaphorically interesting, as we begin this Advent and Christmas season that we KNOW is going to be really different in a whole lot of ways.

There's a sense in which, often, or even usually, Advent sort of drives past us in a kind of relentless parade of important seasonal festive THINGS. And it's not that these things aren't wonderful, or beautiful, or even that we might not actually enjoy them or look forward to them – but it can kind of be a relentless parade.

There are parties and gatherings and drop-ins and open houses. There are work dos and cookie exchanges and Secret Santas and ugly sweater days. Rehearsals for concerts, rehearsals for pageants, actual concerts, actual pageants, carol singing and volunteering, and extra visits and even extra church. And trips to the airport and company coming – or wait. All these things happening in a relentless parade, but it seems like they're happening for everybody else. And for us instead that relentless parade just hurts.

But this year? Not so much with the relentless parade. No relentless Advent Parade this year, barrelling along in a stream of wonderful beautiful festive events. No relentless Advent Parade this year, driving us dashing through December over-scheduled with obligations and expectations. No relentless Advent Parade this year, to make us feel Christmassy... or really ready for a long winter's nap.

Instead, this Advent, we're kind of in the driver's seat. It's going to be what we make it, and a lot of what we're used to, that's been part of it in past years, just isn't there this year for us. To 'drive past' and enjoy.

It's funny – I think back to last year, right around this time. When I sat in the theatre of my youngest son's school and realized that it was my last Winter Concert for school after twenty years of Winter Concerts. And watching three sets of classmates and all the rest of the kids grow up. And I'm not going to lie – after twenty years of Winter Concerts, I wasn't imagining that this year I'd be missing going to a Winter Concert – but it does make me sad that this year there won't be one.

Our Advent this year is going to be what what we make it. We didn't ask for things to be this way, we didn't ask to be in the driver's seat on this one, we just are.

But we are resilient people. We come from resilient people. And the faith that steadies us is the faith of resilient people. Strong and defiantly hopeful people.

I actually laughed out loud when I looked at our passage from the prophet Isaiah that's today's reading from the lectionary for the first Sunday of Advent – because somehow I think I've always missed the last line.

Because it's a lament, this passage. It's a wail and a howl and a crying out of ENOUGH – and our Bible is full of these laments. God's people grieving and fed up and hurting and pleading, expressing every pain they've ever felt because we get to do that when we're sad, when we're anxious, when we're angry, when we're wounded, when we've just had enough, when we wish everything could just be right again.

But this lament, for all it follows that same pattern as all the other laments in the Bible, its last line is fantastic.

Because it's actually almost STERN. But stern like a righteously annoyed five year old who's decided that since God is persisting in behaving badly that God clearly needs a good talking-to. And a reminder of what's what.

Because "Now consider," the lament ends, after its howlings of grief and its pleadings for help, "Now consider: we are all your people."

And if God doesn't understand from that, that God ought to be helping us get through all this discombobulation and anxiety and uncertainty, well HUMPH. 

We're resilient people for a reason. Because God does know quite well that we are all God's people. And we DO get through, because we're NOT alone, and we CAN find in this Advent Season the holiness and anticipation it promises even if we have to build that ourselves -- out of quieter traditions and virtual connections and making time on purpose to listen to carols or light candles or read Christmas stories.

So are we ready? Then let's begin.