Advent 3B 2020 Evensong   Gaudete Sunday

The season of Advent immerses us in mystery, even on Gaudete Sunday when we rejoice because we sense that the Lord is near. Although we have lived in a worldly context marked and even defined largely by the Christian message of persistent hope and undying love, we can approach the Christ only through mystery.

Christianity is a mystery religion.

We believe that the Holy One, the God of all Creation, is a Trinity of persons within One divine Being.

We claim that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of the Most High – born of a virgin, conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, fully human and fully divine.

We teach that after his terrible death on a cross outside Jerusalem, he was raised to life again.

Even believers have noted that all of this mysterious theology is difficult to quantify or prove. It is not surprising that many do not dare to believe in all this.

Written to a little community facing great hardship, the Letter to the Hebrews identifies the mystery well. We have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them.

Although we often focus on the place, in truth we have come to encounter a person, the Christ, who has called us. We are responding to the person who offers us hope in place of worry  – faith in place of uncertainty  –  rejoicing instead of mourning. God in Christ does not deny the reality of our very real difficulties. Yet we accept an invitation to look up – waiting for a return that will transform the world. Our anticipation of the return of Christ reminds us that our mortal burdens have been shared by God and will come to an end in time. We rejoice because the current story of our limitation and the finite nature of our life is not all there is.

On many days, we could find a fair degree of certainty very attractive. In our longing for the presence of God, we seek comfort and peace of mind, and the end to the pandemic and its calamity would really be nice, wouldn’t it? We look around –  past the sparking lights and the tinsel  –  for signs of the presence. For a God who is everywhere, Jesus can be awfully elusive, you know? Sometimes, we are fortunate and our senses line up with our emotions and our souls, and we experience a moment. And we heave a sigh. YES. Thank you.  Where is it easier for you to experience the presence and power of God? In a beautifully decorated sanctuary? In nature, among tall trees or beside the vast ocean? In a time of serving others? With music? With art? Many of us have special and mysterious moments and places. In Coronatide, do we need to look in a new way?

Sometimes, the mystery of faith unfolds in ways we do not anticipate. In the passage from John’s gospel, Jesus criticizes those who witness his deeds and refuse to believe in his relationship with the Almighty. His impatience is not hurt feelings, but the frustration of confronting stubbornness. Jesus speaks a mysterious truth that is unexpected. God offers revelation to religious people, yet Jesus is rejected because he is not what the Temple leaders have expected. Those who see him for who he is are often those who dwell in difficult circumstances.

What shall we do in this terrible, wonderful, unanticipated season of Coronatide Advent? It has been a stressful year. The blessing of technology, remote working, the isolation, and the generalized weirdness have taken a toll.  Now may be the time to undertake a new sort of spiritual journey. It is time to use all the tools we can find – the telephone, the computer or the television, our imagination, the music we remember, a trip to the drive-in  –  and find a way to encounter the mysterious God who beckons to us.

Come into the mystery. We cannot control or manipulate this. We can only lift our eyes, take it into our hearts, and experience the love.