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The First Sunday of Advent
Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year. We begin, not with the birth of Jesus, but with the promise of his return to complete what he started, to make all things new. Advent means waiting. So we are invited on this first Sunday of the church year, the first Sunday of Advent (the four Sundays preceding Christmas) to regain focus and perspective, to remember what we’re waiting for, to gather in a group huddle to reclaim that promise that we are neither alone, nor helpless.
The texts for today are ones that call us to remember in order to live actively in the present with our feet planted and our vision looking towards the future. They both give us an invitation to not be distracted, to remain focused, or to recapture focus and perspective – which is all too easily lost in the distractions of each day (squirrel!)
Jeremiah 33 is a section of prophecy that is well know to many of us. Yet it was written and uttered to a specific people at a specific time. It was a word given to the Israelites captive in bondage and cultural-genocide oppression in far off Babylon back in the 7th century before the common era. We are quick to appropriate it to our situation, as a meaningful word of God’s constant and abiding love, support and solidarity. While this is true, think about what power such a radical, nearly un-believable word would be for people long held in captivity, refuges who had nearly forgotten their homeland from which they were dragged kicking, screaming and bleeding. The prophet evokes the “day of the Lord” – an expression used throughout the writings of other prophets, in particular Amos. It refers to a day, or a moment, outside of time, one that cannot really be communicated with justice by human words – and definitely not in prose. Only poetry can help. It will be a day of God’s wrath bringing justice to places and people to whom is was denied, a day of hope for the hopeless, a day of purifying fire in which the lost may find their way, in which redemption may shine down like the sun bursting through the fog.
Luke 21 is a similar word. It too is written in apocalyptic language. Only poetry and parable can express what is beyond words. God will act. God will come. Justice and deliverance shall be known. But it will be in a way that we can’t imagine, understand, predict or even fathom. It will come as surely as a fig tree sprouts new leaves after the death that winter seems to be. But, will we be ready? Will we be looking for it? Or will we have long since given up out of resignation, apathy, indifference or because of all-too-common distractions (squirrel!)? Faith isn’t just about expectation and passive waiting; it’s about active endurance, prayerful anticipation. It’s a hope that is solidarity creating, life-giving and world-transforming. It’s a currency with which we should live and move and have our being even today.
Questions for Going Deeper: