Saturday, November 21, 2015

Advent 1, Year C - Happy New Year

I am currently working in a congregation that does not use the lectionary. And that makes me sad because my faith life has been shaped by the lectionary rhythm. And so, headed into my favorite lectionary year, (Year C) I thought I'd try to blog about it once again - this time a week ahead. The best motivation? I am preaching Advent I need to get on it!  I would love your feedback, your reflection, your engagement as I walk back into this discipline. When I wrestle with the text, it infuses my worldview. Join me?

As I write this, Matt and I are talking about a young man who has taken his own life. We are pondering Emma's RA experience this week caring for a resident threatening self-harm. Paris has been rocked by unthinkable acts of terrorism and the US, Europe and Africa are threatened by religious extremism. "Business as usual" feels precarious.

Then, add the seasonal backdrop. As the bright colors of fall leaves fade into drab hues, our market driven society drags our chilly fingers and toes into the consumer driven world of glittery, over-stimulated red and green Christmas. 

The lectionary, however, encourages us to move a little more slowly. This is the very beginning - the mark of the new year. 

And we don't begin in Bethlehem. We don't begin with a miraculous pronouncement of the one who is to come.We don't begin with carols. We begin with waiting, reflection, anticipation, hope.

We begin, in some ways, at the end.

The prophet Jeremiah anticipates one who will "execute justice and righteousness." That sounds suspiciously like judgement at first blush. 

And the psalmist seems to be pleading for refinement and correction, teaching and direction.

And that reminds me, a little bit anyway, of where my mind typically dwells in the new year. Fitting, right? It is the church's new year.

In Paul's letter to the church at Thessalonica, he's praying for a correction in the community. He's praying for God to intervene, to redirect, to strengthen.

And finally, in the gospel of Luke, we are deep in. Jesus is in the temple threatening a dark time as the Kingdom of God draws near. He references heaven and earth passing away. He encourages his followers to remain alert and to pray for strength that they can withstand what is to come. 

Advent is a season of waiting. And we begin in the very darkest place, not exactly sure of what is coming at us. We know, in historical context, that the baby born in Bethlehem emerged as a powerful teacher, prophet, healer and leader. The very son of God came, walked among us in flesh, died at the hands of the dominant culture, and returned to life to eat again with those he loved. We know the story right up to today. But that doesn't mean we know the story tomorrow. Such has been the walk of Christions for 2000 years.

As we enter into a season of waiting, we wait, in some ways for what has already happened.

...We also wait in hope for what comes next.


  1. I'm always drawn to the "stand up and raise your heads" part. If it were all "bad news" we'd be invited to hunker those old school tornado drills. And...the fig tree parable says the signs lead to summer...when this happens, you'll know that summer is near. It doesn't say "by these signs you'll know winter is coming and the Big Meanie in the Sky." They are signs of new life. And there you have every Advent I sermon I've ever preached..

  2. Give 'em grace! I do like starting Advent in a place of deep and present mystery.