When I first went in to the school, I was kind of shocked. It hadn’t been kept clean, or maintained. There was clearly a lot of work to be done. After surveying the area and after making note of all the tasks to be accomplished, my colleague and I noticed that our seminary had offices and classrooms and a library, but not a chapel. We (I) decided on the spot, that we would dedicate one of the rooms to become our seminary chapel. That decision was exciting but also anxiety provoking. We needed an altar, a font, and a lectern. We began the repair work right away, but we were more slow and deliberate with the chapel arrangements. We had a few students begin building our pews. Another one crafted the altar, pulpit and font out of rattan. Still others worked on paraments and other needed things. In the end, it was neither beautiful nor ornate, nor was it in any way ideal, but it was a real chapel! And in this real chapel, God’s word was proclaimed and his praises sung!
In some commentary on the Gospel text for the first Sunday in Advent, David Lose identifies a key problem for people around the world…our inability to differentiate our ideal vision of what the world might be like, to reality. And indeed, we use that fallible standard we see as ideal, rather than reality, to judge ourselves assuming that God does the same. We lose sight of the fact that God has always accepted us where we are, and as we are, neither beautiful nor ornate, nor in any way ideal, but as the “real” us!
In this sermon we begin to envision the Advent of our Lord, God who accepts the “real” us, just as we are.