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Advent 2 B ~ "Where God Can Surprise Us, and All Bets are Off" ~ Susan McGurgan, DMin



When we look at the three-year cycle of Sunday readings,

it doesn’t take long to figure out

that Advent readings

are frequently odd,

edgy,

a little strange.

At times…

they are even disturbing.


They present a season

at sharp contrast to our

comfortable view of Advent as

quiet,

reflective,

sedate—

a simple, cozy time of preparation

to receive a baby in the manger.


Some years,

we are put on notice—

we are issued dire warnings

to “Stay Awake!”

“Be Alert!”


Other years,

we are transported into the desert

to see images of a desolate wilderness

bursting into bloom,

and burning sands

transformed into pools of clear, cool water.


One year,

like headlines

ripped from a tabloid magazine,

we read of a woman

clothed in the sun,

crying out in the pangs of birth,

while a dragon awaits

to devour her newborn child.


This year,

we are invited to study some

engineering reports and construction blueprints

that describe highways

being excavated through the desert,

mountains bulldozed low,

and valleys backfilled and leveled.


We discover that time

Shatters

during Advent.

Like the experience of tumbling

down Alice’s rabbit hole,

time looks backward,

then forward,

then stands still.


We hear that a single day

is like a thousand years,

and that Heaven

will pass away with a mighty roar.

It will dissolve into flames

while the earth’s elements

melt in fire.


Advent is a sharp reminder

that our concept of time--

Linear

Logical,

Obedient,

Domesticated—

with a beginning,

middle,

end,

is not necessarily God’s time,

which may be slanting,

or spiral,

and well beyond our ability

to comprehend or measure.


Advent points us to another,

more mysterious kind of time—

the time that exists

only

in the eternal being of God.

This is Time that

explodes galaxies into life.

Time that brings God

incarnate and near.

God’s time is both eternal

and immediate.

Beginning and ending.

Already and not yet.

Single day

and a thousand years.


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 in this season—

this Kairos—

this expanding,

permeable,

eternal,

immediate

already-but-not-yet

Time,

emerge the people of Advent.

And these Advent people

are as challenging

and as unconventional

as the images we see

and the words we hear.


Today,

we hear the shout of a rough man

emerging from the wilderness.

We see a wild man.

Unkempt.

Unrelenting.

Untamed.

A man wearing a goat hair shirt

and munching on locusts and honey.

This man of Advent

calls people to repentance,

plunges them

deep into the waters of baptism,

and reminds them

of their need for forgiveness.


If these images,

these concepts of time,

these words we encounter during Advent

do not seem challenging to us—

If we are not astonished

at the stories we hear

and the people we meet

during this season of “quiet preparation”

it could be

we are not really paying attention.


It could be

we have heard these stories so often,

that we have transformed their strangeness

into sweet and sentimental images

on a Christmas Card.

It might be

that we rubbed their sharp edges smooth

and tamed their radical surprise.


HG Wells once said,

There is either something

Mad

about the Christian message,

or else our hearts

are still too small to comprehend it.


Advent

with its strange warnings,

exploded time,

surprising images

and unexpected people

is a time to enlarge our hearts—

to enter into a world

where nothing is as it seems

and everything is sideways.


If we are truly listening,

it becomes clear that

Advent

is something more

than a season of quiet reflection

or the sentimental story

of a mother and child.


Advent is more

than a time of preparation—

It is more than

a safe and fragrant resting spot

between the bounty of Thanksgiving

and the chaos of Christmas.


Advent is a world where

people who seem to be on the brink of disaster

experience hope so profound

that it changes the course of humanity.


It is a world where the astonishing becomes

Ordinary

and the ordinary becomes sacred.


It is a season that opens a small

rip—

a tear in the veil

between our time and God’s time,

giving us a glimpse of eternity.


On this Advent journey toward hope

we might just discover that

somewhere along the way

our own lives have become

too small,

too tame,

too safe.


If we are listening,

we might hear an invitation

to enter into God’s time--

to step out into the wilderness,

plunge into the waters,

say yes to God,

and await the sound of angels,

singing songs of glory and joy.


Welcome to the second week of Advent!

It is an invitation into a world

where God can surprise us

and all bets are off.

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