Sunday, November 29, 2015

1 Advent

November 29, 2015

Luke 21.25-36
+ OK. I know.  I feel horrible over the fact that I have already set up my 1956 aluminum Christmas tree up at the Rectory All my Anglo-Catholic guilt is eating away at me.  But, I did it because I’m hosting a Rectory Advent/Christmas party on Friday.

Still, I feel like a hypocrite.  How many times have I stood at this pulpit and railed against the evils of secular Christmas?  I should feel guilty.

After all…it is not Christmas yet.  In fact, it won’t be the Christmas season, for us anyway, for another three weeks or so.  Christmas for us as liturgical Christians, doesn’t begin until Christmas Eve.  So, yes I feel guilty. But I’ll forgive myself…

For now, however, we are in this anticipatory season of Advent. Anticipation is a very good word to sum up what Advent is.  We are anticipating. We are anxiously expecting something. And in that way, I think Advent represents our own spiritual lives in some ways. We are, after all, a people anticipating something. Sometimes we might not know exactly what it is we are anticipating. We maybe can’t name it, or identify it, but we know—deep inside us—that something—something BIG—is about to happen. We know that something big is about to happen, involving God in some way. And we know that when it happens, we will be changed. Life will never be the same again. Our world as we know it—our very lives—will be turned around by this “God event.” It will be cataclysmic.

What I find so interesting about the apocalyptic literature we hear this morning in our scripture readings is that we find anticipation and expectation for this final apocalypse. And that anticipation and expectation is a good and glorious thing, I think. That is what this season of Advent is all about. It is about anticipation and expectation being a wonderful thing in and of itself. Because by watching and praying in holy expectation, we grow in holiness. We recognize that despite the doom and gloom some people preach when it comes to prophecies, doom and gloom doesn’t hold sway over us as Christians.

Still, despite this view, we are a people living, at times, in the dark doom and gloom of life. In Advent, we recognize that darkness we all collectively live in without Christ. But we realize that darkness doesn’t hold sway. Darkness is easily done away with by light. And so, in Advent, we are anticipating something more—we are all looking forward into the gloom and what do we see there? We see the first flickers of light. And even with those first, faint glimmers of lights, darkness already starts losing its strength. We see the first glow of what awaits us—there, just ahead of us.

That light that is about to burst into our lives is, of course, Christ’s Light. The Light that came to us—that is coming to us—is the sign that the King of God is drawing near, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, is near. It is near.

Yes, we are, at times, stuck in the doom and gloom of this life. But, we can take comfort today in one thing: as frightening as our life may be, as terrible as life may seem some times and as uncertain as our future may be, what Advent shows us more than anything is this: we already know the end of the story. We might not know what awaits us tomorrow or next week.  We might not know what setbacks or rewards will come to us in the weeks to come, but in the long run, we know how our story as followers of Jesus ends. Jesus has told us that we might not know when it will happen, but the end will be a good ending for those of us who hope and expect it. God has promised that, in the end, there will be joy and happiness and peace. In this time of anticipation—in this time in which we are waiting and watching—we can take hope.

To watch means more than just to look around us. It means to be attentive. It means, we must pay attention. It means waiting, with held breath, for the Kingdom of God to break upon us.

So, yes, Advent is a time of waiting and it is this waiting—this expectant anticipation—that is so very important in our spiritual lives. Advent is a time of hope and longing. It is a time for us to wake up from our slumbering complacency. It is a time to wake up and to watch. The kingdom of God is near. And we should rejoice in that fact.

In preparation for Advent, I have been re-reading some of those poets and writers that inspired me many years—way back when I was a teenager. I’ve been re-reading Kierkegaard and Thomas Merton and Ernesto Cardenal.

One of the poets/theologians that I have been re-reading intensely lately is the
German Protestant theologian and poet, Dorothee Soelle.  If you do not known Solle, read her. She is incredible and important.  When I was in high school, I first read her book, Of War and Love, which blew me away.

But a poem of hers that I have loved deeply and that I have been re-worked as a poet myself is her poem, “Credo.” I was going to just quote a part of the poem here, but it’s just so wonderful, I actually have share it in full.  This is the poem as I have adapted it:  


by Dorothee Soelle
(adapted by Jamie Parsley)  
I believe in a God
who created earth
as something to be molded
and formed
and tried,
who rules not by laws
written in stone
with no real consequences
nor with distinction  between those
who have and those who have not
experts or idiots
those who dominate and those who are dominated

I believe in a God
who demands that creation
protests and questions God,
and who works to change
the failures of creation
by any means.

I believe in Jesus
who, as “someone who could do nothing”
as we all are
worked to change every injustice
against God and humanity.
In him, I can now see
how limited we are,
how ignorant we can be,
how uncreative we have been,
how everything attempted
falls short
when we do not do as he did.

There is not a day
in which I do not fear
he died for nothing.
Nothing sickens me more
than the thought
that he lies at this moment
dead and buried
in our ornate churches,
that we have failed him
and his revolution
because we feared instead
those self-absorbed authorities
who dominate and oppress.

I believe in a Christ
who is not dead
but who lives
and is resurrected in us
and in the flame of freedom
that burns away
prejudice and presumption,
crippling fear and destroying hatred.
I believe in his ongoing revolution
and the reign of peace and justice that will follow.

I believe in a Spirit
who came to us with Jesus,
and with all those
with whom we share
this place of tears
and hunger
and violence
and darkness—
this city of God—
this earth.

I believe in peace
which can only be created
with the hands of justice.
I believe in a life of meaning and purpose
for all creation.
And I believe
beyond all doubt
in God’s future world
of love and peace.

Yes, we do live in “this place of tears/and hunger/and violence/and darkness—/this city of God—/this earth.” But we are hoping, in this Advent season, for “God’s future world/of love and peace.” It is near.  The Kingdom of God—with its incredible revolution—is so close to breaking through to us that we can almost feel it ready to shatter into our lives.

So, in this anticipation, let us be prepared.  Let us watch.  Christ has come to us and is leading us forward.  Christ—the dazzling Light—is burning away the fog of our tears and hunger and violence and is showing us a way through the darkness that sometimes seems to encroach upon us.  We need to look anxiously for that light and, when it comes, we need to be prepared to share it with others, because is telling us that the God’s future world is breaking through to us.   This is the true message of Advent.

As hectic as this season is going to get, as you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the sensory overload we’ll all be experiencing through this season, remember, Watch.  Take time, be silent and just watch.  For this anticipation—this expectant and patient watching of ours—is merely a pathway on which the Light of Christ can come to burn away the darkness in our lives.    

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