Thursday, December 13, 2012
December 2 - ADVENT 1 Reflection by David
I've said this before, and it isn't my original thought, but this is the time when we get mauled. Not, thank goodness like the mauling that occurred last week near Kimberley by a Grizzly Bear (thank goodness, according to reports, the two people are going to be ok). I'm talking metaphorically about mauling.
There's the mauling that occurs quite literally by shopping malls, both virtually online and in reality. We get mauled by the early solicitations from charities looking for our dollars at this time of year. We get mauled by all of the extra demands on our time and energy. Some of us get mauled by these short days and long nights and feel "the blues" of this time of year. Some of us get mauled by the discrepancy between the hopes for peace in the world and the fact that these hopes sometimes and for some dissipate soon after December 26th.
And that's where Advent comes in. Advent is our bear spray to deter maulings. Advent is our invitation to resist the commercialization and secularization of the birth of Jesus and what this means for us in our world. Advent is the means by which we experience the redemptive message of hope, of justice, of peace, of love that opens us to see the world with different eyes, to embark upon a different path, to live with more integrity, more awareness, and more intention.
I was speaking with a friend recently about whether every story has a redemptive moment in it and we agreed that even the bleakest of stories—both real and fiction—have many redemptive moments. There are choices that people make, sometime unable to see the implications of those choices or to see all of the choices. I believe that God is part of some of those choices. The nature of God and God's grace and love is that it invites—beckons—us to step out into a new direction, to take a new course, to try something different. I don't believe that God abandons us—indeed, isn't this what the Christmas message is about?—to our fate whatever it might be. God walks with us the pathways we take; God breathes with us the agony of making a choice. God sees with us new horizons. God invites us to see with eyes of hope.
Imagine the time of Jeremiah; armies in ancient times used to make lots of noise as a means of intimidating the enemy. I've heard that the Babylonian army was powerful and very good at intimidating opposing armies. Imagine them camped outside Jerusalem, the countryside lying in ruins. You hear them beating their drums, stomping their feet, making noise designed to intimidate and bring fear; and it works. Jerusalem capitulates. But Jeremiah speaks a redemptive word in the middle of this capitulation and noise, a word of hope for the future, a word to accompany them into the brutal captivity of Babylon: "I will fulfill the promise I made to Israel and Judah; a righteous branch will spring up for David. This holy one will execute justice and integrity. See the new name for Jerusalem wil be "God is our integrity." That's a redemptive moment that invites hope.
I imagine Jesus teaching near the Temple in Jerusalem, long after Jeremiah's cohorts were carted off in captivity and long after they'd returned. Jesus has entered Jerusalem to the songs of "Hosanna! Hosanna!" He's cleansed the Temple of exploitative practices which just make the poor poorer. He's taught with an edge because he's in Jerusalem—the big show—and that's where the action is. He's resisted before now going to Jerusalem. But there is Jesus, seeing the opulence of some of the religious leadership, the narrowness of the interpretation of Torah. And Jesus wants to make it right; he wants to see a renewed covenant with God. He wants the redemptive story told... without strings attached, openly as the Commonwealth of God. He wants what Jeremiah wanted: a sense of hope rather hopelessness; a sense of future rather than despair; a sense of possibility rather than nothing.
Jesus said that the Temple won't stand—it can't the way things are today. The world is in turmoil; the Romans brutally put down anything they think smacks of a rebellion. The Jewish leaders are narrow interpreting the ways of God. "This temple won't last! And see, there'll be weird things in the sky; there'll be strange things in the sea. The nations will be in turmoil! But look up. And see! I've been with you this long and you still don't see!?"
What is it that we are supposed to see? Not might, pomp and circumstance, I believe. We are to look up by looking down to see a child born in a rude stable in the back of beyond, a child full of light and hope and embodying God's redemptive word, a vulnerable baby as a sign of God's presence. We are to look around into the eyes of those around us to see, not an enemy or an adversary, but an ally... indeed, more than that, a member of my family! We look around not to see the great signs of God's glory and might, but the little redemptive moments that are part of all life. We are invited to see the birth of Jesus here and now in 2012. We are invited to give birth, metaphorically, to Jesus, to the Christ, to hope. We are invited to pay attention to that still, small voice that sounds like sheer silence.
That redemptive moment might be in the form of a card received from an unexpected person into a moment of despair and uncertainty. It might come in the lighting of a candle at dinner with family and something slips out about what light is and could be. It might be waking early and deciding to walk by the lake to see the sun rise and see how the light plays on the clouds and horizon. The redemptive moment might be a strange word spoken by someone in a coffee shop who means more than "have a nice day"... who means "have a nice life" or "you are just fine." It might be a line from a movie or a book or a poem that just cracks us open and the tears begin to flow and we know that something new has happened. It might be a child for whom we are worried sensing our unspoken worry and writing to say that it will be ok. It might relief from pain after struggle in body or spirit. It might be a letter written on behalf of a political prisoner across the ocean who only wants freedom. It might be a word from a child in a refugee camp or in an occupied zone. It might be an invitation to join our voices to others voices to stop oppression and injustice. These are the stories I hear you speaking and I speak myself... of redemptive moments.
The redemptive moment will come... it is here. Let us together see it!
Posted by NUC Webminister