Anytime we read the apocalyptic texts in church, what gets played from many pulpits (and I confess including some of the ones in which I’ve stood) is Jesus is coming, better get ready, better get ready in the RIGHT way and look busy.
Oh yeah, and the world is coming to an end. Gratefully we didn’t feel the effects of the Dover earthquake last week. But really? Love God’s divine sense of humor!! And besides, “google” the word apocalypse and read further to the Greek etymology and you’ll find a very different meaning: reveal.
We visit Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore quite often – Jai’s parents have a home there on Plum Street. Built in the 1920s, it is a testament to the days gone by in that sleepy little town. Upstairs in the hallway, my mother in law has lovingly hung her extensive Norman Rockwell collectible plates – my guess around 75.
And just like the house speaks to a by-gone era, so do those plates. And as an esteemed colleague1 points out, everything and everyone in those prints are happy, well-adjusted, fun-loving families where everything is just perfect. No arguing, grudges, annoyances or a weird, creepy relative among them. Just perfection – the ideal perfection.
And as the colleague goes on to point out, that is probably where we get ourselves into trouble. We’ve get this ideal in our heads and nothing else measures up, ever.
And those over-posters on Facebook who all seem to have perfect lives and nothing goes wrong doesn’t help either. They are so perfect and we are so not. And so we believe that we what we have is not enough, our families are not enough, and we are just not enough.
Do we do that to Advent too? There has been quite a bit of chatter and even shaming going on the ELCA clergy and “pastor moms” page.
Don’t put up the Chrismon tree until after Advent 4 and if it is up, don’t light it.
Absolutely no singing of Christmas carols prior to Christmas Eve. What kind of Lutheran are you??
And the poor woman who put her tree up on Veteran’s Day weekend and posted an absolutely beautiful picture of her toddler admiring the tree and so tenderly and carefully holding an ornament – immediate shaming by members of her congregation no less and accusations of being hypocritical.
Did I mention that this pastor is a single mom and with all that goes on in the church running up to Christmas, that if she was to get her tree up, it was that weekend or not all?
The meaning of Advent: this word comes from the Latin advenire, which means “to come”. Many of us stop right there. Jesus is coming…
But again looking at the etymology it became “adventus” which means “arrival.” So the anticipatory energy of “Jesus is coming” moves to “Jesus is here!”
And as I sat in choir singing “Jesus is coming!” a line from “Advent Celebration” amid all of our preparations that have been lovingly and carefully and joyfully put up this week, that this might be the year to be “right now” and not quite so focused on “to come.”
And rather than being so focused on the ideal – whether in our families, homes, relationships, church family – that we are called to be in the present.
Mark13 or “Mark’s Little Apocalypse” reveals the present reality of Christ set in the context of a brighter tomorrow and written as their world was falling apart in 70AD. For them and for us the present reality is the tomb is empty. Jesus is Lord!!
Christ’s death and resurrection changes how we think. God is present and that changes EVERYTHING.
So rather than being so wrapped up with “the reason for the season” and chastising those who don’t go along with that, I am looking for where God is now. And I invite you to do the same.
Where has God entered into our lives? Here’s the thing, though. God comes to us as we ARE. Not the ones we’re trying to be. Not some ideal that is put out by the world or even in our own minds.
Not some ideal church where we’re 50% millennials and families with children and balanced plans for mission and ministry.
And know that where we are now, this beautiful, crazy, broken group of people that we call church, God is already here.
I don’t know too many people, me definitely included, that would ever be pictured on one of those Norman Rockwell plates hanging in my mother-in-law’s house.
When Jesus was baptized the clouds were TORN apart. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was TORN apart. When God comes into our world, things get torn apart and God is no longer at a distance, in a temple, in a war, in someone’s ideals idea of what life should be like.
And trust in the promise that we hear from God’s word in Isiaiah: that the future is “tearing open the heavens and coming down” because God has radically committed God’s self in our present.
God chose to come into our world to fully be with us. And the reality is that he never left.
This is the God of the here and now, present reality – arrived and revealed…
God is here – in the homeless vet who holds the sign asking for money at the corner;
God is here — in the single mom who wonders how she is going to make Christmas happen this year for her small children;
God is here — in the lonely person who sits by the window at an assisted living facility waiting for no one to visit;
God is here — in the angry young man who desperately needs guidance;
God is here — in the young woman who walks the street alone at night.
Jesus says, “And I say to you what I say to all: Keep awake.”
Keep awake because God is here.
In the waters of baptism
In the bread and the wine
On the cross
In a child
God is here. God is already here.
- David Lose . …in the Meantime “A Present-Tense Advent” http://www.davidlose.net/2017/11/advent-1-b-a-present-tense-advent/ 2017.