back to list

Born this Way


Series: Advent

Category: 2017 Sermons

Passage: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Speaker: Nicole Trotter

Born this Way

1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:24-37

This is the first Sunday of our Christian year. Advent is the beginning, and beginnings are significant. The beginning of school, of a job, a marriage, and especially the beginning of life…In the beginning…beginnings are foundational, and Advent brings not only the beginning of the Christian calendar but also a way of living, that leads us to the birth of Jesus Christ. So Advent is not just a time, but a way of being and approaching the most significant birth in our lives as a Christian people.

Advent also brings us a new Gospel to learn from. This year it’s Mark’s Gospel, the first gospel written according to scholars, and Mark has no mention of a birth story of Jesus. For Mark, the first account of Jesus is his baptism as a grown man. And our first lectionary reading for today skips over that and brings us to an apocalyptic warning. Much like the long nights this time of year…this scripture starts out dark… In those days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light…

But Mark’s little apocalypse as its often referred to seems at first glance an odd scripture for advent, but only if we subscribe to the cultural norm of the season. The cultural advent….or holiday time,  as the song goes, is the most wonderful time of the year…and it can be…but not without awareness of something much greater. Awareness, or keeping alert, for no one knows the time or the hour when the son of man will appear is a prophetic warning pointing to the return of christ…given to us by Jesus, written by Mark, who wrote at a time when the world was a very dark place. The temple had just been destroyed, the temple which for Jews was more than a weekly visit to a worship service. The divine presence of God lived in that temple, it was a living connection to the past, and an identity marker for the people… as the center of the economic and political life it was a way of life, and to have it destroyed was a sign of the end times… which shades and shadows what Mark is saying and he’s really clear, using language borrowed from the Book of Daniel…which is apocalyptic literature…Only Mark is doing something different. His focus isn’t on judgment…and his formula is different than the older texts, placing the in breaking of God,  after a catastrophe, rather than before.[1]

In addition, is this mention of a fig tree, Mark’s second mention of this life bearing tree…in the middle of desolation, comes life….that’s the birth story…this life-affirming God that shows up in the middle of darkness when even the moon will no longer give its light….

In the Celtic tradition, the moon we observe this month is referred to as the mourning moon…because it’s the last moon before the winter solstice, the longest might, as we enter into darkness…

When Charlotte was in first grade, she had a teacher who was different from the other teachers in the Reed district. It was this teachers first year teaching in this district. She has been raised in Santa Cruz and her parents were artists…so I liked her immediately. She sent the children home with a special assignment…which was to look for the moon every night…for one month…and to keep a moon journal with a parent..writing down any questions that came to mind…to watch and to wonder, to draw a picture, or to just sit….

One day in passing, I thanked her for this time. Even on nights when Charlotte was distracted, the assignment gave me a time out, and returned me to a sense of a big picture, beyond lunch boxes and schedules and housework…It was simply put, life changing. But when I thanked her, she said this…” thank you…but I’ve gotten many complaints.” Other parents felt it was a waste of time… One more thing to do, or not the right kind of thing to do, with STAR testing and competitive academics on the rise.

Awareness, keeping alert, looking out into darkness and discovering signs of life, is much like recognizing the light within the light of God. Fig trees that bear new life, the return of Christ, the birth of the Messiah, is not a prescription for happiness, something our culture is obsessed with…

…It’s a blessing to behold… At a time when there seems to be a shortage of good news, to understand Hope is to embrace something God does…not some thing we do…to see the light within the light of Christ…is to see that hope in the faces of those who love you, and those who seem strangers to you. To search a world that is disconnected and lost in the dark…to see the light within it, is to embrace every small gift that allows you to breathe again, to love again, to appreciate again, to embrace God given Grace.

Mark knew that. He knew both the light and the dark, the day and the night, the joy and the suffering. We know that.. as we experience both, one minute our heart is broken and the next minute it’s laughing. And often, at the same time.

We begin our Christian year in the dark, not unlike the womb that is a place of protection, while we grow and incubate…until we are ready to emerge…born from above…because of what God is doing. The more we stay awake to it, the deeper the meaning grows…but that requires something of us…more than a sermon once a week, more than worship…it requires we carry ourselves through this entire season of Advent, with a greater awareness. A keeping alert, for you do not know when the time will come. I am giving you an Advent assignmentwhether gazing at a turning moon, reading scripture, lighting candles, volunteering for those in need, being there for someone who is suffering, or simply acknowledging your own suffering to God, once a day this advent season, take on a ritual or practice that helps you to deepen your experience of Advent… which will ultimately amplify the meaning of Christmas.


In Paul’s  letter to the Corinthians…a community on the brink of falling apart …Paul begins his letter by reminding the people of the bigger picture…everything good comes in and through Jesus Christ, including the way we live our lives.[2] Each year we are asked all over again to believe that…In and through Him we are born again, born into a community of love, born into a world that is in need of light, born into a faith that compels us to love  because we are loved first.

We begin our year the dark, in shadows of the time then and today, where many are waiting in despair. But as people who already have Jesus and wait for Jesus, we wait together, so we are never alone in the darkness. We sing and pray, sharing both our joys and our sorrows as we wait..for the light that breaks in on Christmas morning in and through the birth of Jesus.

Frederick Buechner-
There is nothing much humbler than being born: naked, totally helpless, not much bigger than a loaf of bread. But with righteousness and faithfulness the girdle of his loins. And to us came. For us came. Is it true—not just the way fairytales are true but as the truest of all truths? Almighty God, are you true? 
When you are standing up to your neck in darkness, how do you say yes to that question? You say yes, I suppose, the only way faith can ever say it if it is honest with itself. You say yes with your fingers crossed. You say it with your heart in your mouth. Maybe that way we can say yes. He visited us. The world has never been quite the same since. It is still a very dark world, in some ways darker than ever before, but the darkness is different because he keeps getting born into it. The threat of holocaust. The threat of poisoning the earth and sea and air. The threat of our own deaths. The broken marriage. The child in pain. The lost chance. Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often. 

 It begins here, in Advent dark… Christ and us together… born this way….out of darkness.

Wherever we are in this narrative of advent…wherever you are in these days leading up to Christmas…God finds you there….

We are born this way….belonging to God…in the dark…the place God finds you.



[2] Feasting on the Word, Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi