Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thoughts for Advent 1 at 8.00

With not enough time today and an early start tomorrow, I was thankful to find this reflection for Advent Sunday in my archives. The only problem is, I have NO recollection of either writing or preaching it! Did I find it somewhere and archive it because I found it helpful (in which case, profuse apologies to the author whose words I've unintentionally stolen)...? or did I write it under pressure and then erase it from memory as the tide of preparation engulfed me? I've no idea.
But I'm going to use this at 8.00 tomorrow - and very thankful it's available, however it arrived!

We have probably all been on a long trip with a child who kept asking,“Are we nearly there yet?” We know that long car trips are hard for children, but we also know that this question can quickly drive us to the edge of desperation...We know we only left home 20 minutes ago, and this is a two hour journey!
Patience is a virtue........” my father would say...but somehow this was never a virtue I wanted to cultivate.
I don't much like waiting.

This could present me with a problem, then.......for Advent is a season of waiting and expectation. We have been celebrating the season of Advent, waiting for Jesus in the season of hope and expectation for generations, asking again and again
Are we nearly there yet?”
and, in one sense, the answer is “no”...look around you and you can see that the world is still far off being the Kingdom of God..

Yet, in another sense, we arrived there about 2000 years ago, as God entered our world as the baby in Bethlehem....the Kingdom of God broke in to our world, and nothing has ever been the same since.

And in still another sense we know we will arrive breathless and disorganised, on December 25 just as we do every year. The Christmas cake will probably not be iced, the stocking presents largely unwrapped...
The Advent journey is just beginning, so clearly we have a way to go yet.

We can expect to travel through the month of December and we know that we will arrive safely at the manger on Christmas Eve. That's what Advent Calendars exist to show us. Christmas is coming, ready or not, and so Mary will be visited by an angel, a decree will be sent out from Caesar Augustus and the couple will make their weary journey to Bethlehem. Magi, star gazers from far away, will arrive some time later and then we will pack up the whole thing and set it aside for another year........
It’s the same story we have been reading for close to 2000 years. We sing “Silent Night, Holy Night” and it can be as if we are actually transported back 2000 years and we can smell the animals in the stable and hear the unmistakable cry of a newborn baby.

Are we nearly there yet?
The Advent journey also takes us personally through a journey of self-discovery and change. When we sing to the Christ Child
Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today” we are inviting God to give us our own personal experience of the holy.

In the third and hardest to grasp dimension of Advent waiting, we hope for the time when the singing of “Joy to the World” will be true LITERALLY. We hope for the time when all weapons of war will be changed to those designed for agriculture. It is the world actually living by God’s laws and it is world where Shalom is fully realized and there is no mistaking that sin and evil are a thing of the past. 
Are we nearly there yet?
Three possible ends to our Advent journey – and each of them is a true part of the whole.
Sometimes we don't feel at all like Christmas and in those years we can go deeper into the tradition of “Emmanuel”, God with us in all our messy every day the places of disappointment, grief and loss.
Sometimes we really, really need to get beyond what can be a superficial expression of peace that only thinly covers the consumerism that marks the traditional Christmas. We need to sit and experience the presence without focussing on the presents that can be wrapped and put under the tree.

Do we wait for something that will last longer than that 35 pound Christmas Turkey that took two people to lift it into the oven? It seems to me that we wait best by living that for which we wait and hope into being. If we hope for peace on earth we wait for it best by living the peace in which we believe in the best we can. We may not be able to beat our actual swords into actual ploughshares (I don’t even have a sword to start the process with) but we can convert some of our resources into food for the poor
We can bring into being the real meaning of Christmas by focussing more on things we cannot buy and on relationships and on the things that will last.
We can live into the peace for which we hope by stepping off the overpowered treadmill on which we live for one day a week and slowing down, recharging our batteries, and focussing on the things we must enjoy before they change...

The passage from the gospel that I read just few moments ago is about being ready at all times, and about not being surprised that we are surprised. It is about being ready to experience grace in the most awful of circumstances because God is present at all times.
So, as we look forward in hope, we can confirm with confidence our answer to that recurring question
Are we nearly there yet?”

Yes we are...because wherever we are in our Advent journey we know that the God who so loved the world is travelling with us.

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