In the spirit of Advent – the beginning of the church year – I decided to begin something (again): I went to church.
Not having been on a Sunday morning for nearly a year, it was an odd yet very familiar and comfortable experience. I saw many faces I recognized, most of which I haven’t seen for a long time. I sang songs I recognized, most of which I haven’t heard for a long time. I felt home…even though this particular community of faith is new for me.
This morning felt like an appropriate start for Advent – the season of beginnings, of anticipation, of expectation of God’s coming, of God’s longed-for presence. Though my theology tells me that God is with me whether I ever darken the door of a church or not, there was something right and good about knowing Emmanuel (God with us) in a sanctuary with candles, bread and wine, music, and others. I’m grateful.
But wait, there’s more…
I’ve been thinking about the acknowledgement and celebration of Advent as a discipline for myself this year. Perhaps going to church this morning sparked that reality; nevertheless, it’s my desire and intent to be able to post some reflections using the daily texts (though I’ll extend myself enough grace here at the outset to acknowledge that I may not get to this every day…).
So, I begin.
Sunday, December 2 Scripture Readings:
Psalm 111, Amos 1:1-5, 13-2:8, 1 Thess. 5:1-11, Luke 21:5-19
With the exception of the Psalm, these are some scary verses – all doom and gloom, warnings of God’s wrath, and projections of what life will be like at the end of all things. In the Old Testament reading we hear words of anger, war, judgment, fire, exile, battle cries, much harm to pregnant women. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of the Lord coming like a thief in the night and…again with the pregnant woman
language…with destruction coming on people suddenly as labor pains on a pregnant woman. And in Luke, Jesus speaks of nations rising against nations, of being betrayed by family and friends, of being hated.
Not really the messages we like to read – especially in a season filled with happy Christmas carols, jolly Santa’s, twinkling lights, and present purchasing.
What are these passages about? Why the first readings of Advent? What are they trying to say?
These verses, in many ways, articulated the reality that people already knew. The Israelites had been waiting for deliverance, for their Messiah, for a very long time. They knew much about God’s anger, judgment, and the experience of exile. In such a state wouldn’t one anticipate and long for God-with-us, Emmanuel even more passionately? Wouldn’t advent be a beginning deeply hungered for? And in Paul’s day, a church in early beginnings, fits and starts, and much persecution, wouldn’t the be hungry for a message that reminded them that the Divine was yet to come; to be alert and on the watch for God-with-us, Emmanuel? As Jesus prepared his disciples for his imminent departure, would they not hunger for the signs that would let them know that he was going to return; that God-with-us, Emmanuel would come and reign?
Advent: a season of anticipation.
Advent: a season of acknowledging what is – in our fear, in our disappointment, in our dashed expectations, in our tired-of-waiting state.
Advent: a season of hungering for more – for God-with-us, Emmanuel.
In the midst of what is we can take heart. We can encourage one another. We need not worry. We will be cared for. We need not fear. We can stand firm. That is good news. That is, indeed, God-with-us, Emmanuel.