Video of Evening Prayer here.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Advent preparation this year is going to revolve around the early Christians whom we remember during the season of Advent. This is yet another way that the Church Year produces connections for us that we might not otherwise notice. In this we are following the pattern set for us by William Durandus in the 13th Century, who said, “The saints are to be honored by imitation, not adored, as if to honor them as gods. They are to be honored with love, not adored with servitude.” And, a little closer to home, the Augsburg Confession reminds us that “the history of saints may be set before us so that we may follow the example of their faith and good works, according to our calling” (XXI:1).
Andrew is first, by example of his faith, that we might imitate him. He comes first because he was martyred on November 30, probably in the year 60, under the emperor Nero. In the Western Church, the Sunday closest to Nov. 30 has been marked as the beginning of Advent, and so his feast day comes closest to the first day of the Church Year. But he is first for our consideration, not only because he is first in Advent, but because he is the first disciple of Jesus mentioned by name in John’s Gospel. He heard John proclaim Jesus the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He followed Jesus to the place where He was staying, and from then on was no longer John’s disciple, but Jesus’. And the first named disciple went and found his brother, Simon, first of all. He said of the one who had found him, “We have found the Messiah,” and he brings Simon to Jesus. Later, it’s to Andrew that Philip brings the Greeks who desire to see Jesus. It’s Andrew who tells Jesus that they have five barley loaves and two fish, but that they surely won’t feed the large crowds in John 6. And Andrew is always the fourth named in lists of the apostles, after Peter, James, and John.
Jesus told Andrew, with the other unnamed disciple, to come and see, and they followed Him. And so Andrew saw, and so Andrew followed. Various records have Andrew traveling all over the world, throughout modern-day Russia, northern and eastern Europe, central Asia, with records from Pakistan. He followed all the way to his own crucifixion on what tradition has held was an X-shaped cross, ordered by the Roman governor in the Greek seaside city of Patras.
Wherever it was that Andrew preached, he teaches us to follow his gaze, along the trajectory of the Baptist’s outstretched finger. Look! The Lamb of God. Here is the Lamb God provides, as He promised Abraham on Mount Moriah. Where is the lamb for the sacrifice? Isaac asks his father. God will see to it, Abraham answers. God will see to it. Even as Isaac lies on top of the wood prepared for a sacrifice, with his father’s knife raised above him, will God provide a lamb? Even as days grow darker and life never quite lives up to our expectations, will God provide? Even as distraction and complacency push us away from any hint of the cross, away to comfort and ease, will God provide? God will see to it, Abraham says. And Andrew is one of the first to see what God has seen to. Look! The Lamb of God. God has provided a perfect, spotless Lamb. Like the ram caught by its horns in the thicket, seemingly out of nowhere, God has provided His own sacrifice by way of the Virgin, seemingly out of nowhere. God stays Abraham’s knife; God stays your death sentence. God provides a sacrifice. Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! Where does He remain, where does He stay? Come and see this Advent. Come and see that God keeps His promise, God sees to the sacrifice, God provides His own Lamb, to take away the sin of the world. It was revealed to John, who pointed Him out. It was revealed to Andrew, who followed Him. And it has been revealed to you, whose place the Lamb has taken.
Andrew’s cross was an X, the first letter of Christ in Greek. Crucified with Christ, bound to Christ, to be raised with Christ. And so we also, buried with Christ in baptism, wait with Andrew for the revealing of Christ to our eyes, and not just to our faith. Until then, we have Him, who remains with us, Immanuel, Christ, in His Mass. X-Mass, the Mass of the one who led Andrew to that cross shaped like His Name. May that Christ make us all faithful to speak of the Lord who has found us, as Andrew did to Simon; and to follow Andrew as He follows His Lord, His Lamb, His God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/30/16