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.