Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The lessons for Sunday, December 2, 2012:

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25:1-10 (Ps. 25:1)

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 21:25-36

Some years, the apocalyptic tone of the Advent texts feel more appropriate than other years. This is one of those years when the words of Luke resonate with me.

The other day I was praying for people I know who are in some amount of distress. I was struck by how many people whom I know personally are dealing with very serious events. My friend lost her brother who was only 60 years old, and I know several people who have lost a parent in the past year. I know plenty of people who are dealing with serious health issues. And then there’s the issue of job loss and threat of job loss, even in this economy which we’re told is recovering, but most of us don’t see it on the ground.

Yes, we live in a time where we see “men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaking” (Luke 22:26).

Maybe it’s the health of the planet that concerns you. As I write this morning, I’m hearing reports of sea level rise happening 60% faster than projected. Will that swamp my house that’s 3 miles inland? Or will we simply see more grim storm impacts like those we saw during Hurricane Sandy? The outlook doesn’t look good for any of us.

I’ve been reading Craig Childs’ Apocalyptic Planet, which talks about past die-offs and the current die-off that we’re experiencing as the Holocene Age comes to an end. The planet has been through grim times before, but often even though the planet survives, individual species do not. The words of Luke resonate: “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the eath distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and waves” (Luke 22: 25).

If you're in a festive mood, the readings for Advent must often seem jarring. You’re probably wondering why we can't sing Christmas carols like the rest of the world.

It's important to remember that for Christians, the season of Advent should be a time of watching and waiting, not decorating and shopping. We remember the stories of others who watched and waited (famously, Mary; not so famously, the legions of people who have felt the yoke of oppression and yearned for a savior).

One of the messages of Advent is that God breaks into our dreary world in all sorts of ways, some scary, some comforting, some magnificent, and some hardly noticed. The story of Jesus is one of the more spectacular stories, but God tries to get our attention all the time. We are called to watch and wait and always be on the alert.

The message of Advent is truly exciting. God wants us to participate in Kingdom living now, not just in some distant future when we go to Heaven. What good news for people who are suffering from all the sorrows that our world can dish out.

Christ’s story promises us that destruction and death are not the final answers. We worship a God that finds a way to freedom, even when human minds can’t figure out how God can accomplish that freedom.

So, if you’re having trouble feeling festive, take heart in the good news that’s about to be brought to us. If you’re not in a holiday mood, let yourself sink into the meditative mood that Advent could deliver. We are surrounded by all sorts of futures that are only gestational right now. The alert watchers will begin to see the fulfillment of the promise.

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