Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Community Advent Service

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Community Advent Service

Community Advent Service 2021

YEAR C: Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36


Advent sneaks up on us somehow, catching us with surprising speed, and we are often unaware and unprepared. It’s Advent already – wasn’t it just Thanksgiving. Isn’t Christmas in a few weeks?

Surely, the season of Advent is countercultural because it isn’t the jolly season of Christmas, and I suspect most of us don’t think it is as filling for us as is Thanksgiving. Instead, Advent comes to us at the beginning of “the bleak midwinter” to turn a phrase from one of our best-known hymns.

Yet, because Advent is countercultural and in the bleak midwinter, it provides for a time of great hope, great waiting, and great expectation. And the scripture provided for the First Sunday of Advent in the Revised Common Lectionary underscores especially that hope. Each of the scriptures brings a slightly different perspective, but ultimately, they are all about hopefulness.

There is talk of justice and righteousness in the Jeremiah reading, which we didn’t hear today.

The Gospel from Luke is a bit more jarring. Its apocalyptic style foretells Jesus’ second coming at the end of the world, a period of difficulty and trial. But it is precisely in the midst of challenges, difficulties, and anxieties that we need to be a people of faith, hope, and love. And we’ve certainly had enough challenges and anxieties over the last two years. (It is so thrilling to actually be gathered together for this first community service since Advent two years ago.)

Advent asks us to be prepared. Our eyes do need to look up at the sky, not down at the ground. We must always be living our lives in preparation and anticipation because, as Luke tells us, “redemption is at hand.” (Luke 21:28)

And what better way to hear that message of faith, hope, and love than to listen closely and deeply to the words of Psalm 25.

At first blush, Psalm 25 may seem an odd song for Advent. At this time of year, the songs of Advent and Christmas (ok, almost solely Christmas) fill the airwaves and are heard constantly in malls, stores, and homes. I assure you that Psalm 25 is not currently on the playlist that you will hear in the mall or on your SiriusXM holiday channels.

But here it is—an ancient song that pleads for honor and truth.

The Psalm, attributed to the great king, David, tells a story of someone in deep pain with worry for the future. The Psalmist, however, places his very soul in God’s hands, asking for instruction, for teaching in truth. David remembers his sins – and he also recalls God’s promises: mercy, forgiveness, and steadfast, unwavering love.

                        “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

                                    my God, I put my trust in you;

                                    let me not be humiliated,

                                    nor let my enemies triumph over me.

                        Let none who look to you be put to shame;

                                    let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

We hear an ancient psalm with an urgent word for us in today’s world. The beginning of Advent is just the right time to consider these verses of petition, praise, and promise.  We hear the needs of the psalmist – for deliverance, for guidance, for forgiveness. Truly the psalmist’s needs are our needs.

Most of all, hope is the focus of these opening verses of Psalm 25. Indeed, it is a song of confident hope. It is the song of one who has known the complexities, the ups, and downs of life and still maintains a steadfast trust that God will care for him, that the future is ultimately in God’s hands. This is a song of one who has escaped exile, thinking over how his life has been challenged and blessed.

In reflecting in this psalm, Old Testament theologian Walter Brueggemann that “humanness is pervasively hope-filled, not in the sense of buoyant, optimism, but in a conviction that individual human destiny is powerfully presided over by this One who wills good…Yahweh is not instrumental to the hope of Israel, but Yahweh is, in fact, the very substance of that hope.”[1]

What we hear in Psalm 25 is an affirmation of relationship, “To you, O God, I lift up my soul.” To you, O God, I lift up my soul.

Advent invites us to enter fully, the fulfillment of the promise that in all our living, God, and for us as Christians, know that our hope is in our Savior, Jesus Christ who will provide for us, take care of us, save us.

As Advent dawns, it is good to affirm the bedrock of our faith in Jesus Christ – I lift up my soul to you, and in you, I place my trust.” It’s an affirmation that is short and life-affirming.

I lift up my soul to you, God. I place the protection of my friends, my community, my enemies in your care.

Advent is a season when we can embrace the tension of waiting even as the joyful Christmas noise seems to arrive earlier and play louder each year. But, unfortunately, it is easy to be distracted by the light twinkling, gift wrapping, cookies baking, carol singing, and by the anxiety-producing extravaganza that is the holiday season. I love Christmas, but I look forward to this time of year when we gather as a faithful community to remind ourselves that Advent is a season of waiting and listening. It is a season when we lift up our souls to the one who loves us most, free from fear and guided towards peace, hope, and love.

Our hope is not that God will give us everything we want or remove everything we don’t like. Instead, our hope lies in the promise that God is with us, God is for us, and God will always journey with us.

In remembering Christ’s first coming, we prepare, wait, and hope for the second coming. We wait and prepare for Christ to enter our lives every day, again and again. We wait for what has already happened and what will happen again.

As we celebrate this season of Advent, let us not be overwhelmed with worry. Instead, may we embrace it as a time of healing and a wonderful opportunity to reach out to others in a spirit of fellowship and love.

Would you please embrace Advent as a time to slow down, to be quiet, to pause, to reflect, and to prepare for the coming of Christ? Find a few moments in each day to think about the coming of Jesus into your life and the life of the world.

And remember that we are pulled into Advent by God’s promises. “You are mine. You are loved. You have been reconciled. You are a new creation.”

Come thou long-expected Jesus. Come. Amen.

[1] Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press,

1997), 497.

Before the Covid-19 caused us to cancel services inside our churches, the sermons were usually recorded at St. Andrew’s and uploaded by Kemp Miller, for whose ministry we are all grateful. To access the entire library of audio files for past sermons, CLICK HERE