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Sermon for Advent One - Year C
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Salvator Mundi; Luke 21:25-36
"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"


READING:  Jeremiah 33:14-16; Salvator Mundi; and Luke 21:25-36
SERMON :  "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-ad01.y-c 395000


There is a song that is familiar to all of us, a secular song,
          that could be called an advent hymn -
             although it does not talk about God,
                 or about the coming of Jesus,
                    or about the Christian hope.

I wonder if anyone can think of what that song is as I go on
talking about it for a minute?
         
The song is loved by millions of people - especially by children. 
It is a song that speaks about the coming of an important person,
a person who knows us and our every action,
a person who is good and loving and who expects us to be the same.

Do you have it now?

The song is "SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN"

For a world no longer accustomed to reading the scriptures 
         SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN summarizes the Advent message 
          in a secular way - all that remains to be done, 
          and it is something that as Christians we can do - 
             is substitute the name of Jesus for the name of Santa
                 Claus and we would then have, in lyrical form, the
                    essence of what the gospel tells us about the
return of Christ and how we should be ready for it.

Image yourself as a child for a moment - a child from a reasonably
normal, healthy and loving home.

Do you remember what you father and mother, especially your mother
did around the house during most of December?

Remember what happened at that time of year?
         How the house was decorated and lights were hung up,
          a tree trimmed, and baking - scads of baking was done:
             shortbread, cakes, squares, and sugar cookies cut into
             the shapes of trees and stars?

Think of how it seemed everyone around you was doing things that
they often never did at any other time of year.

They wished people "Merry Christmas" and smiled a lot.
         And people came visiting - and how they came visiting!
          - the aunts & the uncles, the cousins and nephews and nieces
             - poppa and nan, and all kinds of other people,
                 some of whom you never saw again till next Christmas?

Remember how you knew something special was going on, 
         that Christmas was coming and Santa was getting so close to town
          you thought you could hear on the cold crisp nights the
          sound of the reindeer practising for the big run days ahead.

And you undoubtedly remember too how you did special things to get
         ready for the big day - wrapping gifts,
          making up cards and pictures for all the relatives
             and trying just a bit harder than usual to be nice to
                 everyone?

Do you remember what it meant at this time of year to look forward
to Christmas...?   To think about the coming of Santa Claus and how
everything would be wonderful when he came - and that you would get
lots of good things from him and everyone would be happy?

Everyone that is but people who just were plain mean,
         people like Scrooge in the old black and white movie they
          played - and in fact still play, almost every year...

I may be off base here, because I am thinking of my own experience
of the Christmas season back then, but in the back of your mind
         - almost unconsciously - you knew even then as a child,  that
         what you did, or did not do, made a difference somehow; and in
         some way that difference counted with your mom and dad, and of
         course with Santa Claus 
          but it didn't really worry you all that much even when you
          heard the words of the song that go:

                 He knows if you have been bad or good,
                 so be good for goodness sake.

It didn't worry you - because in the back of your mind, you knew
that Santa Claus loved you, and that he would be fair to you, and
overlook all the little things you did that just maybe you
shouldn't have done, but couldn't really stop yourself from doing?

And although your parents may have teased you about how if you
didn't do what they wanted you to do Santa would leave coals and
ashes in your stocking, you still didn't get too worried because
you knew that your parents loved you and you knew that you were
trying to be especially good - when you remembered that is?

All in all, December was a great time of year,
         a time in which you, and everyone around you, prepared for a
         great event - the coming of Santa Claus,
          and the song told you all about it - even if it did have a
          couple of lines that your parents seemed to like a bit too
          much....

The song told you though what it was all about didn't it:
         "You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not
         shout, I'm telling you why - Santa Claus is coming to town."

And you watched out, from mid-November you watched out,
         and you read the Sears catalogue with the same passion
         than a starving man has for food, 
you read it because you knew that Santa read it too;
         and whenever you thought about it -
         the part about behaving better,
         or whenever your parents though about it for you,
          you did your best to be good to everyone.

That is what a lot of childhood's are like around Christmas time.
They follow the song.  And everyone else it seems does the same.

As adults, and as Christians,
         we are called to follow that song too,
             and recover the joy and the blessedness
                 of our childhood faith in goodness.

As adults and as Christians, though, we are called to follow the
song with one major difference: we are called to substitute the
name of Jesus for the name of Santa Claus.

But that is about the only difference.
         
For we are called to expect his coming, 
         the coming of Jesus with the same energy, 
          and the same dedication, and indeed the same joy,
             as we awaited Santa Claus when we were but children.

I say with the same joy because joy is one of the fruits of the
Spirit of God in us -- and because too many well meaning Christians
want to take the joy out of Advent - the time of preparing for the
return of our king.

I remember once attending a Pentecostal church where the preacher
that day was talking about the second coming of Christ.

         The preacher made it sound like one of the most terrifying
         events imaginable.  He focused on the negative and missed
         the positive in all that he was speaking about.

         He didn't tell us about the peace, the joy, the hope, and
         the love that a Christian person experiences when he or she
         prepares for the return of the king, but instead he looked
         out at the congregation and asked:  "where will you be when
         Jesus comes back?  Will you miss seeing him because you are
         in a tavern?  In a theatre watching a dirty movie?  In bed
         with someone else other than your wife?   Will you be found
         in sin?, he asked us?

         Nowhere in his sermon was there a hint of blessing - rather
         we were told that if we played cards or danced or listened
         to the wrong kind of music that we would go straight to hell
         when Jesus returned.

         For him preparing us for Christ's coming meant trying to
         scare us out of our wits...

Some would say this is biblical: they might even quote today's
gospel which says:

          "be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down
          with dissipation, drunkenness, and the anxieties of
          life, and that day will close on you like a trap. 
          For it will come upon all those who live upon the
          face of the earth.  Be therefore, always on the
          watch, and pray that you may be able to stand before
          the Son of Man."

         "You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not
         shout, I'm telling you why - Santa Claus is coming to town."

It is true that at the coming of Jesus there is a judgement,
         but my friends, as during this advent season we prepare
          for the coming of Jesus,
             for his birth in Bethlehem and in our hearts,
                 and for his return to the earth,
                    starting with his rule over our us,
                        let us remember that like Santa, he loves us,
and like our parents, he will not put coal and ashes in our
stockings because we have forgotten to pick up our socks or left
our toys on the living room floor.

That is simply not how God operates -
the God we believe to be more loving than the most loving mother,
the God we believe to be more caring than the most caring father.

Yes there is judgement 
         - judgement for those who totally ignore what is right and what
         is good,
but this is the promise of God for his people, for those who try to
be good for goodness sake.

         "'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will
         fulfil the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel
         and to the house of Judah.  "'In those days and at that time
         I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line; he
         will do what is just and right in the land.  In those days
         Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. 

That is what the gospel of the second coming is about,
         it's about good news - not bad,
          it's about the gifts of God for our world, 
and not just, or even primarily, about the anger God has for those
who totally ignore his law of love.

We are called to prepare ourselves for the gift of God to us
          of a king who will do what is right and just in the land,
          of a king who saves the world, not destroys it.

And the best way to prepare for that king,
         and that is what Advent is all about, preparing,
          is not by developing fear of what will happen if we are not
          prepared,
but rather by developing ways of giving hope, and peace, and love,
and joy - the things that our candles are meant to remind us of.

We prepare for our king by studying the bible just as fervently as
         we studied the Sears catalogue,
          and by taking time to communicate our best wishes and our
             fondest hopes to others, just as we did when as children
                 we coloured pictures and made up special parcels for
our teachers, our relatives and our friends so that they would feel
special.

This advent 
         - give hope by showing care for those who are in need,
         - give peace - by turning the other cheek when you are provoked
         and by refusing to buy games and toys that encourage conflict,
         - give love by hugging someone who is feeling sad or tired,
         - and give joy by being encouraging and helping someone who
         feels at the end of their rope, by showing them that you care
         and that therefore God cares as well.

When you do these kinds of things you will receive hope, peace
love, and joy in return -  and you will know that when the king,
our Lord Jesus, does return, that you are ready for him - for you
will know his presence in your heart long before he actually
arrives on the clouds with glory.


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1997 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.



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