Tuesday, November 27, 2007


This past Thanksgiving weekend, many of us had several days in which we departed from our usual routine and time-tables and calendars and spent time with family or around the house, not paying much attention to the time. On one day, it was either Thursday or Friday (I’m not sure which, since I wasn’t paying much attention to the day, either!) I looked out the window and saw that it was dark, and yawned and figured it was about time to get ready for bed. I then looked at the clock for the first time in hours, and noticed that it was 6:00. It is an irony, isn’t it, that the most hopeful of all Christian seasons, the season of Advent, takes place when it is the darkest season of the calendar year.
And it’s not only dark physically with shorter days, but somehow, the anticipation, the preparation for the coming of Christ stands in sharp contrast with darkness. The war in Iraq has now gone longer than World War II . The genocide in Darfur, the summit in Annapolis that will focus on Palestine and Israel. The world seems to be ever so fragile. There was crime in Plainfield and we are all aware of the violence in our own communities, on our streets, in our homes. And though this season should be a time of excitement and joy, we are reminded that illness and suffering and death do not take a holiday during the holiday season. The clouds of anxiety about the future are hovering so low and close that you can barely see your hand in front of your face.That’s why the candles on the Advent wreath does not come one second too soon for me. I need a light, a light that comes from God. And I need to hear the angel appearing to Mary, I need to feel her joy and sing with her. I need to hear a whole heavenly chorus of angels singing glorias to the shepherds. I need to visit the manger and bow with the wise men. I need this Advent season.
But hold on, scripture remind us. We need to prepare. And not just by getting the tree up and buying the presents and baking the cookies. We prepare...get this... by hearing this heart-stopping message that predicts the end of the world. Jesus speaks of “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,” of “distress among nations,” of people who will “faint from fear and foreboding.” Isn’t that where we already are? Isn’t there enough fear and foreboding in our lives, and in our religion?
The good news that God intends to make the world right again. The good news that Jeremiah proclaimed years before Jesus came onto the scene: “The days are surely coming when I will fulfill the promise I made.” Things were every bit as dark in Jeremiah’s days, perhaps even darker, yet he was sustained by his conviction that the outcome of human history was in the hands of God, who could be trusted to make the city a place of safety and the land a center of salvation. The coming of a Savior, then, is not just a personal thing between me and God. It’s not something that just begins in the heart and stops there. It’s not something that doesn’t cover much more territory than our living rooms. It’s something that happens to the whole world. Something or someone is coming to redeem not just us, and people like us, but the whole groaning and travailing creation.
How about that! “the whole world waiting at the window for the day of redemption. The promise of Advent is that day will come. We do not know the day, but we do know that we will not be forsaken. For the shaking of the cosmos is not a sign of the world’s falling apart. Rather, it is just the opposite. It is evidence that, as Jesus himself put it, “your redemption is drawing near.”
And so bring on the candles. Bring on the candles as we light candles to pierce the darkness of our hearts, our streets in Plainfield, and our world. Light candles to prepare for that redemption, we people of hope, by waiting at the window on behalf of the whole wide world. Light a candle, for the world’s greatest drama is about to begin! The Good News is near, even for us.

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