Advent 1 – Year A
The context and surface style of this passage makes it very easy to jump to apocalyptic end-times. The imagery is stark and dramatic. The theme is judgment.
As we enter a time of preparation we might take our eye off an endgame and put it back on a process of living, regardless of the times, culture, or faith orientation in which such living takes place. We are not waiting for a dividing judgment, but a birth of new hope for a peace that passes our understanding and is for all creation – a peace we can hear sung, no matter how far off, hailing a new creation. Can we be ready in our dark night to hear angels sing? This is what we are preparing for.
A first key is that of letting go of expectations of results. What is coming (whether one uses "Son of Man" lingo or not) goes beyond expectation. It may come this hour; it may not. While we have preferences about the timing of things (speeding up the good stuff and slowing down the bad) the Preacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us that all the various seasons take place within a larger vision - enjoying life and work.
Whether war continues in Iraq in 2008 or ceases or expands to Iran – what are you called to in your place? Whether one country's economy busts or all do – what are you called to in your time? Whether your health holds or you find out the latest worst – what are you called to in your body? Whether your dearest dream expands or dies – what are you called to continue nonetheless?
Here we need to re-appropriate our ignorance of a larger wisdom. We need to appreciate that we don't know any of the larger pictures. The angels don't know it yet, either. Neither does Jesus. This frees us to simply enjoy life and do our work. By extension this ignorance is corporate as well as individual. So we can enjoy together and work together. How is it where you are?
By this ignorance (a refusal to be trapped by fuzzy Gnosticism) I don't mean stupidity. Rather, a detachment of our actions from our expectations. Simply put, what's a good thing to do, whether we are here or not in any given hour? Does this mean reducing the carbon footprint we have as individuals and congregations? What witness to a better hope, a larger future, and a more expansive love will we participate in? Will we sing this song and dance this melody in good times and bad?
Since we can't be ready 24/7, we perhaps can be open to enjoying and to a next good work, regardless of the context we find ourselves. Amazingly, this simplifying puts us in the good company of the saints who are urging us on to stop our political and religious games, to cease our military aggression and economic exploitation, and to calm our excited entitlements.
Advent comes as a gift of waiting wherein we might practice avoiding all expected hours and joining Jesus and all the other saints in feasting with other saints and sinners and providing healing touches and speaking forth healing words to one another. Four weeks may just be long enough to make some progress as individuals and congregations in this process of holiness.