December 3, 2011
It's Advent. The dark part of winter. A time to prepare.
It's a funny thing to prepare for the lifting of darkness, the coming of spring, the birth of hope. Normally we do the opposite. We prepare for winter, putting up food and fuel against harsh weather, cold and darkness, when times are grim or unsure.
We say hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
But Advent is different. In Advent we say prepare for the hope.
I'm not sure I know what that means. I know we get ready to celebrate Christmas. It's like festive winter preparation, one where we stock up on food and hang out extra lights against the dark nights, sometimes so elaborate that people make a special point of coming around to see. Is that more preparing against something than for something?
In Advent it's ok to walk in darkness, to notice the challenges we face, to acknowledge the fear, risk, cruelty, oppression, lonlines, sadness and hunger that people experience, that creation experiences. Not to repent; we leave that for Lent. We do it to connect--with ourselves, with our neighbours, with the world and with God. We do it to be reminded why Jesus' birth was so significant. We take a moment to really experience winter in all of its cold, dark brutality so that the moment when it is once again light when our alarm sounds, the sighting of the first robyn, the day we no longer need gloves and local asparagus shows up at the market--we take a moment to really experience the season of darkness so that our hearts truly soar in praise and gratitude with the return of the spring sun.
We don't live in the time that Jesus was born into and I think we sometimes take his existence fo granted. It's easy for us to forget how new it all was for the disciples, how much Jesus disrupted their lives.
We have the advantage of 20/20 hind-sight while the disciples took the risk of living in the moment without any idea of what is all meant, or even, much of the time, what was going on. Sometimes we read the gospels as mere story without really seeing what crazy and completely irrational risks these people were taking. And beyond the gospels, later followers, early followers of "the way," not now following a charismatic person inviting them, incongruently to leave their livelihoods and fish for people, but now following a guy put to death in the most shameful way possible. Nailed on a cross.
It's hard for most of us here in middle class Canda to imagine just how dark, cold and hungry people were to take such risks for even the possibility of spring. And so we take this time of Advent to try to get even a little glimpse into what it might have been like to put aside everything familiar and comfortable to follow the possibility of hope.
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