The holiday season is upon us as we see the wreaths have been hung and the Advent wreath is smack dab in the middle! And in the commercial world the holidays, particularly Christmas, are in over drive! There are Christmas trees and lights everywhere and the tune of those familiar Christmas songs ringing in the air. The zoo lights are up and ready for visitors and many of the towns Christmas trees have been lit! But, if you had the chance to read my newsletter article you will know that I am one who holds out until the last possible second to celebrate Christmas. I get on my friends who play Christmas music too early and I am the scrooge walking the aisles of Target scowling at the Christmas decorations that appear before thanksgiving. I love Christmas I really do. I’m not completely a scrooge, but I also love advent. We enter advent today as a time to expectantly wait for the coming of Christ. I’m sure we fully know and understand how Christ showed up in this world as a baby but how Christ is showing up in this world today may not be all that apparent. This is what leads me to love Advent. We have time to reflect and wonder where Christ is acting in this world and expectantly wait for those times when it is made apparent. But it seems especially hard in our current climate to see God at work. And maybe that’s part of my struggle of entering the holiday season with joy and hope because our world gives me many reasons to have anything but joy and hope. The gospel lessons throughout advent even become apocalyptic during this time as we will be hearing about Christ’s return when the world seems to be in complete destruction with no light. These apocalyptic texts are difficult to make sense of and can be quite terrifying as we hear that the moon will not give light and the stars will be falling. There doesn’t seem to be much good in these texts which is an odd time as we are leading up to the birth of Christ. As I read over the Gospel for this morning time and time again the words “beware, keep alert, and keep awake” kept grabbing my attention. I knew that I had heard these words recently outside of the church, but I was struggling to place exactly where I heard them. Then I began to reflect on the state of our world and how worn and weary it feels. It dawned on me that I have heard beware, keep alert, stay awake in conversations with others as well as on the news as the realities of our world are discussed. I am told “Beware and keep alert as a leader in a church” or to “stay awake as a young person walking alone at night”. The world is scary. The world is broken, and the world is worn and weary. We are told to be completely guarded and aware at every turn as it seems violence is breaking out in every sector of our world. There is a strong message permeating our society encouraging us to constantly be on guard as we never know what will happen next. We are being taught to be fearful of others and this messaging is exhausting and terrifying. I don’t want to live in a world or country where I must always be on guard and fear for my safety. I don’t want to live in a world or country where sexual harassment is occurring at every corner we turn. Even coming to church right now can be scary and it can be scary to initiate conversation with a visitor. We don’t know who they are or why they are here or where they are from. We know nothing about them and right now that can be terrifying as we are hearing messages of being guarded and possibly feeling so worn and weary ourselves. But just as we can’t run from the world we can’t run from visitors in the church. Maybe those same visitors that we are scared or hesitant to talk to are also coming to seek a community that will give them hope and a place to feel safe amidst the chaos of the world. Maybe they are looking for a place to hear of the great hope and expectation we can have in what Jesus is doing has done and will be doing. Maybe they are looking for a warm and smiling face to just take interest in their life when it is so easy to go unnoticed out on the streets. *Story about woman on bus* Yes, it is easier to live an insular life and run to the hills in fear. Yes, it is easier to stay in our comfort zone with the people we trust. Yes, all of this is easier because the unknown is terrifying. We live in a world that a visitor could walk into the church and be armed with a gun. We live in a world that sentences a survivor of sex trafficking to life in prison while a rapist walks free. We live in a world that people who are coming forward and sharing their stories of harassment and rape as a part of the #MeToo movement can’t show their face on TV and fear that their perpetrator may become their senator. We live in a world that parents of black children are fearful each time their child leaves the house that they won’t return alive. We live in a world that our President can use “locker room” talk and racial slurs with no consequences. We live in a world that the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor. We live in a harsh world and most of us have the privilege to retreat and turn a blind eye. We have the privilege to ignore the pain of the world as most of it won’t affect us. The system would still serve us even if we turned a blind eye but that isn’t the point of the gospel or of Jesus’ ministry. That isn’t the point of Advent or the Christ child entering this world. Throughout Mark the word “immediately” is used or something to express quick movement. Currently, our world seems to be moving quickly whether it be the holiday season whirling by us or the stories of violence on the news rapidly coming one after another. It is so easy to check out and feel so numb to it all. It seems that after each mass shooting or violent act in the world I see someone post on Facebook how normal this is feeling and how numb they are emotionally. Our world has become numb to mass shootings. Our world has become numb to violent attacks. About this time a year ago I was serving at Jacob’s Porch which is Ohio State’s campus ministry. There was a violent attack on campus in which many of our students were involved or affected by and needed a place to reel in their pain and ask questions. We opened up the Porch that night to hold a prayer vigil and be in community. I remember feeling numb as I watched the students sit on cushions on the ground lighting candles and crying for the violence of this world the violence that just happened right there in their community. I felt numb as I drove to a house where many of our students were staying because they were fearful to be alone or go outside. I felt numb and yet the pain was right in front of me, it was right there sitting in front of me on the faces of the students. The pain was being shown through their tears and their questioning. I couldn’t retreat from this painful situation after watching their tears roll down their faces or hearing their questions about the evil that permeates our world. I couldn’t act like it didn’t happen although I so desperately wanted to. I had to stay awake I had to be alert during this time of pain and be present. We all need to stay awake during these hours of pain, grief, and violence in our world because Jesus calls us to do so. Jesus reminds us in the gospel that we don’t know the time, day or hour for anything, but we must stay awake and present. But how do we stay awake and present when it is so painful? When we are reminded every day that this world is broken which leaves us feeling worn and weary. It is so difficult to seek the light in a worn and weary world. We long to see the light just as we long to see the sun on these rainy Seattle days. We often fear not having light and our emotions change as the light around us changes. Seeking the light of Christ in these dreary days is difficult. Being the light of Christ is these dreary days may be even more challenging. But we don’t accomplish seeing the light or being the light in one swift motion but rather it is a slow progression. Imagine similar to our practice of lighting the advent wreath. We don’t light all the candles at once and experience the totality of their light rather we move through each candle week by week gaining more light. As we practice and set the intention to seek Jesus’ light in this worn and weary world we will continually see his presence more and more step by step. And we have a role in bearing this light. We are called to act in this world which is worn and weary. We are called to be bearers of Christ light which can bring hope, joy, and reconciliation. This is a hard task in this worn and weary world. The Isaiah text from this morning says, “Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down” and I think many of us have longed for that or at least I have. I have longed for Christ’s return when this world seems to be so worn and weary. How we long for Christ to tear open those heavens and come down to save us from this world that seems to be spinning out of control. We do not know the day or hour that will occur but we do know that we are here on this Earth now. Christ’s presence is present in this place and we are called to bear his light into every corner of the world. We have some work to do as the bearers of the light. We are called to speak out against racism, sexual harassment, and unfit leaders. I hope that this world is feeling worn and weary because we are starting to feel the birth pangs of change. The change is on the horizon as the ugliness and sin of this world is uncovered and we are called to be change agents with God in all of this. We are called to stay present and awake so that we might notice Christ’s light in this change. So go forth from this place staying alert and keeping awake so that we might bear Christ’s light into this worn and weary world. Amen.