Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
25 years ago, if you were to ask a six-year boy what is the best Advent calendar, he would answer unapologetically, the one with the most chocolate. Times have changed, and so have the calendars. There are those eager who are eager to spread Christmas cheer have been stocking up for weeks now. They have ordered their matching family pajamas, set their radios to play the Kool 108 Christmas classics, and have picked up their Norwegian sweaters from the dry cleaner for another season of Christmas concerts.
They have also discovered the recently, that one of the most popular ways to escalate the excitement of the season has been to purchase and give novelty Advent calendar. These new calendars can take a variety of forms and styles, from designer calendars for wine lovers to the Lego Star Wars calendar – and of course, the classic chocolate option, now with Godiva chocolates. For those whose deep pockets are heavy-laden with disposable income, you may still be able to order your premier calendar with Diptyque scents, Sephora beauty products, Bonne Maman jams and honeys, and even dog treats. That certainly is a far cry from the calendar of my childhood that we re-used year after year. When I was growing up, the Advent calendar in our house had a picture of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in the manger, with little windows that we opened and read aloud — each containing a verse from the Christmas story.
But whether your Advent calendar is new or re-used, there is always the conundrum among the orderly Advent calendar aficionados: When do you open the first door? The first day of the Advent season, you see, changes every year. In 2022, that day is today November 27th, next year in 2023, it will be December 3rd. Only once a decade does the First Day of Advent actually coincide with the traditional 24 day Advent calendar. The final day of Advent, however, is always the same every year: December 24, Christmas Eve.
Centuries ago, shortly after the Christian church began the official religion of the Roman Empire, theologians discussed the importance of Jesus’ coming to the earth as a child in Bethlehem. Many felt it was inadequate simply to mark off one day a year for celebrating God’s incredible gift in Jesus at Christmas. They felt they needed a period of preparation immediately beforehand to show their gratitude for Christ’s birth. Some proposed a period of fasting like Lent. Others preferred a joyous season when they could not only meditate upon the wonder of Christ’s incarnation themselves, but when they could also teach their children the significance of Christmas. This in turn, lead to the four-week period preceding Christmas that starts on the Sunday closest to the Feast Day of St. Andrew, the Apostle, on November 30th. Now, you may be wondering, so why is St. Andrew such an important figure in the Advent season? That is what I would like to share with you this morning.
It is ironic, how little we know about Jesus’ first disciple. According to scripture, Andrew is the brother of St. Peter and like his brother Simon-Peter, Andrew was a fisherman. He was used to working outdoors and was comfortable with labor that was physically demanding. In scripture, the twelve apostles are often listed in three groups of four individuals. The list always begins with the two sets of brothers, the sons of sons of Jonah, Simon Peter and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. They were all fishermen. Andrew, however, seems to be the most distant of these first four from Jesus. Several times in scripture, we read that Jesus went off with Peter, James and John, but Andrew seems to be left behind. It is odd, since Andrew met Jesus first and knew him before the other disciples.
In St. John’s gospel, we read that the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all of Judea, went out into the wilderness to hear John the Baptist preach and to be baptized by him. Great numbers went out. And Jesus too went out into the wilderness to be baptized by John. Andrew, however, was already there. He was actually a disciple of John the Baptist first before he knew Jesus. The following day, with Andrew in his hearing, John the Baptist pointed to Jesus, and said, “There is the one. The one whom I baptized and is walking before you, he is the one. He is the Lamb of God who will change the whole world.” John said these odd words in such a way that Andrew knew he had been given permission to abandon his teacher, and to follow this new rabbi Jesus. Andrew curiously followed Jesus steadily building the courage to ask him, what John meant in calling him the “Lamb of God,” but before he could ask his question, Jesus spied him, and said to Andrew, “What are you looking for?” It was a poignant, telling moment. Life in Christ, always begins with a question, “What are your looking for?”
Andrew awkwardly responded to Jesus’ question, with his own, “Where are you staying?” And Jesus answered him again, “Come and see. Come and experience my life, and you will know. Come and see what you are really looking for.” Well, Andrew spent the whole day with Jesus, and at the end of the day, he was transformed. Andrew became a disciple of Jesus Christ.
And how did Andrew respond to such a change? Well, the first thing he did the following morning was to run to his brother, Simon Peter. Andrew, the family’s second fiddle, went and found his big brother Peter, and the Scripture says, “Andrew brought Simon to Jesus.” Andrew did not try to convert his brother himself. Andrew did not try to change him or convince him. But Andrew knew that if he brought his brother Simon Peter into the presence of Jesus, that his brother would be transformed just the way that he was changed.
It is a pattern of living that we see over and over again in Andrew’s life. Andrew was always leading another friend or stranger to Jesus. Perhaps that is why St. Andrew’s Day was chosen to start the Advent season. The world needs such faithful and dedicated Andrews who will welcome the stranger, one by one, and usher them into the presence of God. That is what Advent is all about. It is about the possibility and joy that Jesus can bring to broken, struggling, faltering lives. The world needs men and women who like Andrew believe in the Lamb of God, the one who takes away sin of the world, and gives hope and promise to broken lives. Andrew discovered that such a purpose-filled and meaningful life was his true calling- even if he was overlooked.
My friends, as we begin this Advent season anew, what are you looking for in your life? Perhaps God is simply calling you to be a faithful Andrew to your family and your neighbor. Perhaps, even now, he is placing the words into your mouth to share with others, “Come and see.” What a wonderful surprise is waiting for someone you love behind a closed calendar door. Amen.
May the peace of Go which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.