theunfamiliarname

Preparing for Advent 2C

In Uncategorized on December 3, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Far out in the uncharted backwaters
of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy
lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles
is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet
whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive
that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this:
most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.
Many solutions were suggested for this problem,
but most of these were largely concerned
with the movements of small green pieces of paper,
which is odd because on the whole
it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained;
lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable,
even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion
that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place.
And some said that even the trees had been a bad move,
and that no-one should ever have left the oceans.

So observed Douglas Adams,
whose solution is for large spacecraft to turn up
and knock through a hyperspace bypass,
happily obliterating the earth and all it’s problems.

Which is where we meet Isaiah again, in the form of John the Baptist
and his significant roadworks plans.
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth…

In other words, John the Baptist has a vision, recaptured from the prophet Isaiah,
of some pretty substantial changes.
Isaiah’s vision is about creating a road for the returning exiles,
and in that a highway upon which the coming King, the Lord,
may be welcomed.

John’s appropriation of this vision is far broader again.
The coming King, the Lord, tells his hearers,
requires some pretty substantial changes all round.

Because, exile still exists.
People are not happy,
nor, probably, are small coloured pieces of paper.

John speaks to his hearers about how we might prepare the way of the Lord.
And he will tell us next week,
the thinly veiled metaphor of lowering mountains and filling valleys
is exactly what the comfortable, what wealthy people fear.
Social justice.  Equality.  Opportunity.  Dignity.  Enough for all.

A return from exile for everyone, both rich and poor.
As if perhaps both the rich and the poor
are kept from being who God calls us all to be.
As if being rich is as much a place of exile as being poor.
I wonder if we understand the dimensions of John the Baptist’s call?

What it might take for all of us to return from exile,
to feel like we’ve returned home, and things could be like they’re supposed to be?

Let us ponder that this Advent.
Where have we got to?
Personally, as a Church, as a nation, as a world?
And how does that compare to where we know we should be?

Exile is a very powerful metaphor.
Return from Exile is another classic Advent theme.

God, what would it be like, to be home?
That place where we belong, and we feel safe,
and we know that we can be nothing other than we are?
What would that be like?

How is it different to who and what and where we are right now?

And, like so many things,
the beginning of the journey
is in acknowledging that there’s a road we need to travel.
Advent is about naming that journey,
in a world that would have us celebrate Christmas
just as soon as we’ve spent enough.

We have the gift of this season, this purple-coloured penitential season,
to be self-indulgent in a good way,
to examine the exiled parts of ourselves, and of our community.
To notice what we actually want and need,
to notice those around us, to notice God.
The road we are looking for in Advent is our pathway home,
but it is never a road we travel alone:
God is looking for a highway, where many may travel.
And so we are called,
rightly and more profoundly than the advertising fraternity understand,
to generosity and giving at this season.
Drawn, not to the tinsel, but to the trampled-over,
not just to jingle bells, but to true justice.

To a place where poverty and obscene wealth
are both renounced and redeemed.

Where God’s people, all people,
walk the road of return with their Saviour.

This Advent,
we are invited to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’?

At this season, we’re called to give
– not just because “it’s what you do” in a seasonal sense –
but in a way that makes us different.
That catches us up.
That is ‘sacrificial’ in a sense that has nothing to do with how much we spend.

In ‘preparing the way of the Lord’
we are preparing ourselves.
We are making ourselves ready and more a reflection of the world, the reality,
God demands.

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