Blogging toward Sunday

November 26, 2007

The church has traditionally considered Advent a penitential season, a
time for changing one’s mind and re-turning to God. It’s a time for
preparing the way of the Lord, the One who will come to consummate all
things in the rule of God. The scripture lessons for the first Sunday
of Advent are addressed to a pilgrim people, summoning them to stay
awake and alert on a journey that leads to the fullness of God’s
kingdom. We are to “remember the future” in the hope that the Spirit
will make present the One named in scripture.

Yet
instead of remembering the future, the church’s vision at this time of
year seems to go no further than December 25. If Advent does nothing
else, it unites eschatology and ecclesiology. Its movement is decidedly
forward looking, grounded in the conviction that the God who has
decisively acted in the past is still working in the church for the
salvation of a world that is not destined to stay the way it is. In
other words, things are not the way they are supposed to be.

In Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear,
Scott Bader-Saye argues that our lives are easily ruled by “apocalyptic
fear” rather than divine goodness; that following Jesus involves us in
risky practices that fuel temptations to live out of self-preservation
instead of self-giving love. Bader-Saye suggests we need a kind of
courage to “go on” that is fueled by hope in God. We need to receive
our life and destiny as gifts poured out by a gracious God who is
capable of sustaining us as witnesses to God’s peace in the midst of a
chaotic, violent world.

Prior to the advent of
modernity, most people believed that world had a story because the
world had an author. History is God’s story, they would have said, and
while humans are capable of creating confusion during the middle scenes
of the drama, God never ceases to guide and direct the creation to its
good end … People could trust time and history because they trusted
that the God who created the world would finally reconcile all things.

The
scripture lessons for beginning the season of Advent call us to make
peace and to live peaceably—living towards an end known only to God. In
remembering and celebrating the birth of God’s son, we are invited to
worship the One who was welcomed as the sign of God’s peace on earth,
and who will return to gather up all things into that peace. It is hard
to imagine a more timely message.