2004—First Sunday of Advent—A
Happy New year! Yes, today is new year's day. The first Sunday of Advent begins another year in the church calendar. Are you ready for New year's day?
To be perfectly honest, Advent often seems like an interruption in "real time". The reality is that it comes into our lives when we are least ready. If you are on an academic calendar, you are preparing frantically for papers and exams. Your energy needs to be directed to "finishing" and not "beginning". Although we claim that Advent is a time to prepare us for the celebration of Christmas, the holiday march has already begun. The malls have been decorated for weeks, the shopping season was "kick started" on Friday at 6AM if not earlier. The frantic pace of pre-Christmas is already in full swing. Perhaps we should just forget about Advent and call this time for what it is. The Pre-Christmas Season.
Happy New Year! Actually it feels "old" and not new. The scriptures we hear on the first Sunday of Advent feel so "old". (Of course, they are) Isaiah's words were written down over 2500 years ago. And has anything changed since he filled his hearers with hope that God would interrupt the human desire for war and bring peace. 2500 years later we are not so concerned about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. No today we are searching for weapons of mass destruction. Today our weapons and technology are so lethal that they can reduce the world to rubble. "One nation shall not raise the sword against another not shall they train for war again." Get real!
And then there is the warning that the Son of Man will come at a time when you least expect. We've been waiting for 2000 years for the Lord to come again in justice and judgment. We are waiting still. What seemed so imminent for those first Christians, so near in time to the events of Jesus' death and resurrection can feel so distant, so "unreal".
Let's face it. Advent comes. Advent goes. What difference does it make in our lives. What difference does it make for our world?
I am tempted to stop here. I am tempted to ignore the interruption of Advent and just give into the whirlwind of activity in December. I am tempted to give into a worldview where the watchword is "War" and not Peace. I am tempted to despair of our human capacity to help bring about God's kingdom of peace and justice "here and now".
But isn't that why our lives need to be "interrupted"? Isn't that why more than ever we need to hear words of hope that move us to vigilance. Isn't that why we need to stop the whirlwind and the frenzy of our lives.
The story of the people of Israel, the stories of John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, Zecharia and Elizabeth, that we hear in this Advent time are all about God's interrupting. God breaks into the conversation and says "Here I am. What are you going to do about it?"
"Here I am. What are you going to do about it?" In this Advent time will we let our ordinary lives be "interrupted"? Will we resolve to take time to reorient our lives toward the mystery of Christ's coming in us? Will we let the word of God penetrate our hearts in such wise that we find ways of being Christ for one another?
Now is the time. Now is the hour. Now and What now?