Der Vasken’s Sermon on December 4, 2022

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Mari Vartanian was born 108 years ago on the other side of the world in the City of Aintab.
I had the honor of meeting her last Tuesday morning. I was visiting the Armenian Nursing Home as I do every month to offer a prayer service for the residents. As the service concluded,
I went around the room to greet each endearing resident and share a private moment with them.

The nursing home residents are very special people. They are made up of different nationalities, born in different places around the world, are people of different backgrounds and different professions and they each have a heart of gold.

As I was leaving, I noticed an elderly lady in the far corner who I somehow missed while I went around greeting them. Her name was Mari Vartanian. She was a beautiful, petite lady with the traditional white hair and soft skin that characterizes so many Armenian mayrigs. As I was speaking with her, the activities director came over and shared with me that Mari was born in Aintab and that she was over 108 years old, which meant that she was carried through the deportations of the genocide by her mother when she was a newborn baby. She was very alert and very aware of who I was and answered my questions with a gentle ease.

Suddenly, during our talk, Mari started praying. So I leaned to listen to the words of her prayers. Mari wasn’t praying for herself as I expected. This elderly mayrig was praying for me. Imagine me wiping away my tears as she said her prayers. Then she said something that I probably will never forget. “Lord God,” she prayed “I’m ready to go. I’m ready to go. Why won’t You take me?” she asked.

We spoke some more and ended our visit with the mutual promise that we will see each other again next month and that we will pray for each other every day until then. “I’m ready to go. Why won’t You take me?” she prayed.

On my drive back to church later that morning, I thought about Deegin Mari. Who knows for how long she prayed this prayer and has been waiting for the day when she would enter into the Gates of Heaven? How long has she been waiting to stand in the presence of her God and her mother and her father who she hadn’t seen since she was a little girl so long ago?

It’s hard to wait for what we want in life, but they say that the best things in life come to those who wait. That is what the Season of Advent is all about. We are in the period of the year where we spiritually wait for and prepare ourselves for the birth of the Son of God. The Season of Advent is about creating a place in our hearts to invite God in. It’s a time to look inward and to spend with Him.

In Armenian, Advent is called Hees-nag. Today is the Second Sunday of Hees-nag. Hees-nag is a fifty-day period used to prepare ourselves, used to prepare our hearts and minds and to put our spiritual life in order.

There always seems to be a happier spirit among people during the Season of Advent. Even when the stress of the season—the shopping, the decorating and the cooking—take over, they still feel that special something that they look forward to all year long.

The Bible describes Advent as being like an island—that place far removed from the drama of everyday life, that place away from the conflicts and misunderstandings that seem to follow us all year long. Advent is a time to carve out space to be with our God, to refocus our vision and keep our perspective. It’s the time where we prepare ourselves like we do during Great Lent in the weeks before Easter. We prepare by saying a prayer, a small prayer, a daily prayer. We prepare by reading the Bible five minutes a day and in those five minutes, we put down our phones and instead of watching a Christmas story, we read the Story of Christmas. We prepare through receiving Holy Communion right here at our altar. We prepare so that we ready a place in our heart where God can speak with us and embrace us and strengthen us.

We know that God can speak above the noise of this world, but it is only in the quiet times of prayer that we learn to recognize His voice above the noise of our world. Advent calls us to adjust our lives, to adjust our schedules and invest in our spiritual life.

Last Tuesday, a 108-year-old beautiful mayrig showed me the best way to prepare ourselves for the Christmas Season—spending time talking to God, spending time sharing our deepest prayers with Him and to remember others in our prayers.

So on this Second Sunday of Advent, let’s ask ourselves:

• How will you prepare for the birth of Jesus Christ?
• Will it be preparing by doing what the world tells us to do—to take advantage of all the sales and promotions both in stores and online?
• Or will it be something much more meaningful and lasting?

The choice is ours.

Something we should all take time to think about. How are you preparing for Christmas this Season?

Amen.

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