Recently I began my shopping for Christmas.
As is the case every year, that shopping began,
Not in a store, but online.
As is the case every year, it involved Amazon
But as I was preparing to buy some book, or shirt or something for a family member,
I saw a question pop up while paying:
“Want it delivered today?”
I thought to myself, “Oh, come on! Today?!”
and pushed the button, just to see what would happen.
Sure enough, by that afternoon a harried delivery guy,
you know, the ones we see pushing humongous piles of packages,
precariously perched on their tiny carts,
dropped the item off at the parish center.
“Amazing!” I thought. But not amazing; it’s Amazon.
For some time now Amazon has been working on robbing physical stores
of their last real marketing edge.
The fact that you can walk into one, buy something, and walk out with that rush that comes from getting what we want NOW.
Because Amazon has correctly determined, we don’t want to wait.
We want what we want, and we want it now.
It is ironic that it is precisely during this season of the year
that Amazon’s new marketing strategy is so prevalent;
For it used to be the excitement of the weeks leading up to Christmas
was all about waiting.
the decorations and music in the stores,
The Church services with their candles and carols
The Christmas trees on street corners and in our homes
All of it pointed to that morning, when after weeks of delicious waiting, we finally got what we wanted.
I must admit, I don’t really remember when it all started to change.
Perhaps it was when I realized that though the gifts might arrive the same day, the bills arrive soon thereafter.
Perhaps it was when I became the one who had to put up the trees, decorate the church, prepare the sermons and services of this advent season,
rather than just enjoy the labor of others.
Perhaps it was when the decorations and music in our stores and on the radio
started earlier and earlier each year
So that I am in my shorts and a tee shirt
and yet it is already Christmas at Costco.
I don’t how it happened
But it is ironic:
somehow over the years this season
which once was filled with waiting for something to begin
Has become a season – despite Amazon and our ability to get what we want now -
empty of everything but waiting for it all to end.
Psychologists tell us that the “holiday season” is an empty time for many
because our expectations are so filled with memories of Christmases past;
That the present seems empty and meaningless.
In short the present seems exactly like it did to Isaiah and his people,
Surrounded by much larger nations; all of whom could have eaten them for breakfast with room left over.
They had been told that God would always protect them.
Yet they were threatened with destruction. Their lives seemed empty of everything. Even it would seem, God.
This was also how the first Christians felt, especially in those days around the year 70 AD, when Israel revolted against the Romans and lost.
The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple in retribution.
The first Christians had been waiting for the return of Jesus and the restoration of God’s kingdom.
But now everything was in ruins, Their community scattered,
their lives empty of everything
even it would seem of God.
It was in the midst of his people’s emptiness that the prophet spoke the words we hear in today’s first reading.
In the midst of their emptiness he proclaims that God has not forgotten Judah
IN the midst of their emptiness he shouts that God will fulfill God’s promises to Jerusalem.
For he sees in their emptiness something they don’t see;
He sees GOD.
He sees God USING their emptiness to teach them to wait;
wait for a new future where Jerusalem will not be some insignificant town in a tiny country,
but the center of the world,
to which all nations will come to learn God’s law and establish peace.
And it was in the midst of HIS people’s emptiness that the gospel writer Matthew wrote the words we hear in today’s Gospel;
Where he talks about waiting.
His people had waited hundreds of years
for the promises of Isaiah to come true;
but now Jerusalem,
which was supposed to be the center of the world, lay in ruins.
IT must have seemed hopeless.
And yet for Jesus waiting is not hopeless; for he sees in the act of waiting something that the first Christians did not see in their waiting. Jesus sees GOD.
God using their emptiness, using their waiting to make them into a people always ready to meet God, who could show up,
not just at the end of the world but at any moment.
not just where they expected God to be,
but wherever and whenever God chooses to be.
Because for the prophet for Jesus, and for the Church our waiting is NOT a sign of God’s absence; it is the very place of God’s presence and action in our lives.
The prophet says that God is present
Using waiting to shape us into his people.
Jesus says that God is present
teaching us to use our waiting to watch for signs of God’s presence and action in our lives.
And the Church says that God is present
even amidst the discomforts and pressures of this time of year,
by naming these four weeks not the “Christmas Season”
OR “the Holiday Season” but the ADVENT season.
Advent is a Latin word that sometimes is translated as “Coming” and we understand it is that season of the Church year that prepares for Jesus coming at Christmas.
But REALLY the word has more of the sense of ARRIVAL.
In other words, it is the season we celebrate all the ways that God in Jesus is already here,
and challenges us to let GO of our expectations,
and to allow Christ to come to us this Christmas;
in words and in water, in bread and in wine, in the faces and the lives of the people we meet live with and love.
All of it is used by God to reveal God’s presence to us;
all we have to do is allow God to do it.
and when that happens,
we would discover that every day is Christmas. Because every day, the one whose birth we will celebrate in less than a month, is born in us anew. You might call, it, same day delivery.