Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church


2 Peter 8-15a

Advent is a time of waiting. Are you aware that we are waiting for something? What is it that you are waiting for? Some of you may be waiting for this service to be over so that you can eat. I… for one…am looking forward to a great Christmas dinner today! Since there are just the two of us at our house… cooking a great big dinner on Thanksgiving or Christmas has lost a lot of its appeal… and so these church family potlucks have taken on a very special place in my heart!

Maybe like me you are waiting for some free time so that you can finish your Christmas shopping… or decorate your house for the holidays. I'll bet most of you have that done already! Well… be that as it may… today's the day for putting up the Christmas tree at the Frazier household. Hopefully… while I am having a nice Christmas dinner with you… and enjoying the Christmas program… Dave will be at home getting the Christmas decorations out of the attic… and we'll spend the rest of the day decorating our house!

Actually for most of us… it doesn't seem as though we are waiting at all. Rather… it seems that time passes too quickly… and there is never enough to go around! But maybe… if you try real hard… you can remember those days long ago when you thought Christmas would never come… when you hoped for something special under the Christmas tree… and your anticipation was so great that you could hardly fall asleep on Christmas Eve? Well… I guess that time is long past for most of us… but our children still eagerly awaiting the gifts under the tree…hoping for… who knows what. Unfortunately… I can't put myself in their place. I'm now among the old folks who don't know what a "pokemon" is. I hasn't a clue what kids want for Christmas these days!

But I do find myself thinking about… and anticipating… some time in the future when my life will be more peaceful…more serene… less demanding... a time when I can stop worrying about how I am going to get my bills paid off before I reach 65. Like every body else… I am waiting for better times… hoping my life will change for the better… that "my ship will come in" as my mother-in-law used to say! It just seems to be human nature to think that what we have is not enough… and that what we long for would be so much better… and then… unfortunately… there are the times we think… "Is that all there is?"

The words of Isaiah that Lou read to us this morning were written to people who were dissatisfied with their present life… they were captives… held against their wishes in a foreign land. My Bible has a brief introduction to this last section of Isaiah beginning with chapter 40. (Read the introduction from the NIV Life Application Study Bible.)

Isaiah tells the people that things are going to get better… God has not forgotten them… better times are coming! And we now know that was true! When Cyrus came conquered Babylon he let them go home… back to Palestine… back to what was left of Jerusalem… which was precious little I'm sure. They rebuilt their city… and their temple. Although Cyrus was still their ruler they were allowed to live their lives as they saw fit… and so they rebuilt… and prepared for the coming Messiah that Isaiah had spoken about.

400 years later… when Jesus arrived on the scene… they had once again evolved into a typical human community… with the have's… and the have-nots. On the one hand there were the wealthy… the educated… the well nourished… and, of course, the respected religious leaders. And… on the other hand… there were the "others"… the poor and downtrodden… the sick and broken… the outcasts of society… all those who didn't matter anyway. And still there was the waiting… the hoping for better things to come. They had done everything humanly possible… and now the climate was right… the anticipation was high… the Messiah would surely come soon. But when he came… it was the have-nots who recognized him!

Well… the Messiah has come… and supposedly we are among those who recognize him… and yet little has changed. We continue to wait and to anticipate something better. The writer of Second Peter had some words of hope for the early Christians who were beginning to wonder why Jesus hadn't returned. They were beginning to recognize that the waiting must go on… and that they must decide for themselves what to do while they waited. In verse one of chapter 3 the writer says:

3:1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. 3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation."

Now isn't that the truth? History does seem to repeat itself, doesn't it! In fact… we seem to be pretty much right back where the Israelites were when Jesus arrived on the scene 2000 years ago. Once again there are the have's… and the havenots. On the one hand there are the well-to-do… the educated… the well fed… and, of course, the church goers and respected religious leaders. And… on the other hand… there are the "others"… the poor and downtrodden… the sick and broken… the outcasts of society… all those who don't matter anyway. And still we are waiting… and hoping for better things to come. We have done everything humanly possible haven't we… and we are sure the climate is right… the anticipation is high… the Messiah will surely come soon. But when he comes… will we be among the the have-nots who recognize him!

Jesus always had a really strange idea about who was important to God, didn't he. Over and over again he reminds us that God will invite the beggars in the street to come in to the banquet. Why? Because those of us "in the know" are too busy getting ready to accept the invitation.

Oh, of course… we are spending our time diligently while we wait, aren't we? Dave and Charles and I gave up our personal Thanksgiving Day to go to the New Orleans Mission to be among those who are invited in to the banquet. We had a good time… dishing up the food… and putting it on the table. And then we all stood there and watched the homeless… the poor and needy… the dredges of our society walk humbly past us as they came in and sit down to eat.

It was a terrible sight… and I'm not referring to the people who came in to eat. I'm referring to all of us… standing along the walls… just watching those poor people take their hats in their hands… parading by in front of us… forced by the necessity of their lives to accept charity from our hands. We didn't join them… we didn't welcome them as God does… we stood by and watched… and I had to bit my lips hard to keep from crying.

Are we really ready for God's kingdom to come? The writer of Second Peter says:

8 …do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

There is still time for us to repent… to recognize how arrogant and self-centered we truly are… how smug we are with our education… our good jobs… our homes and all our possessions. These are certainly the most important things in our world… but let us ask ourselves just how important they really are in God's world. We may have everything we need… and more… but we are still dissatisfied… we are still waiting.

What are we waiting for? Could it be the day when we get our priorities straight… the day when we sit down and enjoy the banquet with those who come in from the street…the day of the Lord's salvation. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on December 5, 1999
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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