we enter into a new liturgical season,
with a new cycle of readings.
When we look at these readings
over the three-year span,
it doesn’t take long to figure out
that Advent readings
are frequently odd,
a little strange.
If we are listening,
these readings illuminate a season
with our view of Advent
as something quiet,
A tame and comfortable resting place
in the run-up to Christmas.
Today, for instance,
we are confronted
with the image of two men in a field
one snatched up,
We see two women grinding at the mill,
we don’t know where--
We see thieves in the night,
and receive the ominous warning,
In some years, we read of a woman
clothed in the sun,
crying out in the pangs of birth,
while a dragon
waits to devour her newborn child.
The desolate wilderness bursts into bloom,
and burning sands
become pools of clear water.
we study engineering reports
and construction plans.
We learn of highways
carved through the desert,
mountains bulldozed low,
valleys backfilled and leveled.
Some weeks of Advent,
we are invited into a twisted broadcast
of the Animal Planet
and are thrust,
ready or not,
into a strange new world
where wolves lie peacefully beside lambs
and babies play in a cobra’s den.
the Advent readings promise miracle
the blind shall see,
lepers will be made whole,
the dead raised.
announce unexpected new life.
we receive updates
drawn straight from the 6:00 News—
that the sun, the moon, and the stars
will bear signs.
Nations will be in dismay.
People will become frightened,
God even invites us
to look into the mirror and see,
not our own familiar faces,
but threshing tools—
sharp, double edged, dangerous, new.
We discover that time
Like Alice, falling down the rabbit hole,
Time looks backward,
then stands still,
then ends altogether.
Advent teaches us that our concept of time;
with a beginning, middle and end
is not necessarily God’s time,
which may be slanting
and beyond our ability
to comprehend or measure.
Advent points us to another,
more mysterious kind of time;
the time that exists
in the eternal being of God.
Advent reminds us that God’s plan
does not reach its peak in the birth of Jesus
or even in his death and resurrection,
but in his second coming
at the End of all time.
And into this season,
a season filled with strange images
and cryptic warnings,
and time folding in on itself,
emerge the people of Advent.
People as challenging
and as unconventional
and as unexpected
as the images.
We will hear the rough shout of a man
emerging from the wilderness
A wild man,
A man wearing a goat hair shirt
munching on locusts and honey.
This man is calling us to repentance and belief;
calling us to be on watch for the one
who will come after him.
We will hear the story
of an unconventional family—
A family beginning life under difficult,
We will meet an honorable man,
guided by a voice in a dream
to take his pregnant fiancée into his home,
leaving himself open to scorn and ridicule.
We will encounter a woman,
guided by a voice heard in broad daylight.
A woman pregnant,
not by her betrothed,
or by any other man,
but by the power of God’s spirit.
If we are not astonished
at the Advent stories we hear,
the images we see,
and the people we meet--
It could be
that we are no longer really listening.
maybe we have heard them so often
that their rough edges are worn smooth
and their radical surprise has dulled.
HG Wells once said,
there is either something Mad
about the Christian message,
or else our hearts are still too small
to comprehend it.
is an invitation to enlarge our hearts;
To enter fully into a world
where nothing is as it appears at first glance
and everything feels a bit sideways.
If we are truly listening,
we will discover that Advent is something
than a season of waiting
or the sentimental story of a Mother and Child.
It is more complex
than a purple-tinged interlude
between the foodfest of Thanksgiving
and the chaos of Christmas.
Advent is a world
where people who seem to be on the brink of disaster
encounter Hope so profound
that it changes the course of humanity.
Advent is a world
where the astonishing becomes ordinary
and the ordinary becomes sacred.
It is a season that opens a small tear in the veil
between our time and God’s time.
A season where the infinite beckons,
and all bets are off.
Welcome to Advent!
On this journey,
we may discover that somewhere along the way,
our lives have become too small,
And in that discovery,
we might just encounter a hope so profound,
that we, too, are transformed.
O house of Jacob, come,
Let us walk in the light of the Lord!