A Very Advent Month

It’s been an especially appropriate Advent.

The church season of Advent insists that while the stores and commercials are playing “Jingle Bells,” we discipline ourselves to reflect on what it’s like to wait for Jesus to come.  What it was like for the Israelites to wait for Messiah the first time, and what it’s like for us now, to wait for his return the second time.

The next time Jesus comes, everything gets set right.  He comes as king, and there will be no more dying, mourning, pain…no more tears.  No more injustice.  No more thievery.  Things as they were meant to be.

Some days, the waiting for that is more poignant than others.

But when the Israelites awaited him the first time, they were also acutely aware of their need for that promised Messiah.  They were on the bottom of the totem pole.  The Romans had all the power, and all the money, too.

There was nothing they could do to change their situation, no matter how much they wished it were different, and things weren’t looking good.

And as we entered Advent, just a few weeks after our election, I have to admit I felt the same.

I claim no special knowledge, and I might be very wrong – in fact, I hope I am.  But I do think we elected the wrong person president.  I do think this president-elect is utterly unfit.  And the kinds of choices he’s made since the election do nothing to dissuade me so far.

I don’t know whether we are headed for a presidency that has very little power because it will be so chaotic and uninformed, or a presidency with too much power because the president is so impulsive, and surrounded by people who want to break the government, not lead it.

Whatever happens, I’m pretty sure we’ll be worse off at the end.  (And again, I do hope I’m wrong and will gladly admit it if I am.)

At this moment, many people in our country feel a new insecurity.  Non-white people feel as though they are under extra scrutiny just in case someone thinks they’re an immigrant.  Scores of people somehow feel liberated to make threats against others, and women and Muslims have been especially targeted on sidewalks, on public transit, in stores.  People have discovered a new hatred in their neighbors!  It’s a bad time.

And so in this season of Advent I feel more acutely what I imagine the fears of Israelites were.  The world does not seem as safe as it did two months ago.

Still, the answer to Advent is not unknown!  We do know Jesus did come, and when he came he was completely different from what those who were consciously awaiting him expected.  That’s why he was opposed by some – they were expecting a military leader, a charismatic rabble-rouser, someone who could raise an army and chase the Romans into the sea!

They did not expect a nobody from Nazareth, with his one robe and his motley crew of fishermen and others.

But then, those folks didn’t yet know what God was doing.  How could they have known?  It was too hard to figure out, even though the clues were there.

I suspect the clues are around us now, too, that will show us how God will lead us in the next few years to be peacemakers, those who love our neighbors, those “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”  I can’t see it yet, but I know there is a role for those who want to follow Jesus INTO messes, even if it’s scary.  And maybe there is a way that God himself is going to use those now being called into the government, no matter what they think their agenda is, to do justice, and mercy, in ways they do not expect.

Waiting on the Lord is never easy.  But it’s what we are often called to do.  I’d rather take control of the situation, but that’s just about never what I’m supposed to do.  What I know we have to attend to now, is the word of God and the disciples of prayer and worship – the things that lead us into God’s presence – so we’ll be equipped and sensitive to his leading, when it’s time for us to act.

You’re invited to join me.advent_wreath-week-1