Up until this year, I’d really thought of Advent as an opportunity to do some spiritual housekeeping. It was a season to clean out the clutter and center on joy and love once more. In many ways, it was like Lent without the intense focus on sin, repentance, and forgiveness. And it was deeply personal. The worship services provided a framework for a more inward focus. I grew to love Advent for all its candles and the joy that takes over the last couple of weeks. Until this year.
This year I am having a very different experience. My personal spiritual state doesn’t seem all that important as I hear the haunting echoes of the wilderness cry to prepare the way of the Lord. It strikes me that God didn’t whisper to Micah or Isaiah or John the Baptist. There were no quiet thoughts passed through dreams to reassure the prophets. Rather, they were given the task and sent out to proclaim what needed doing. They shouted it out loud – in the wilderness, in the desert, in the city. There was a promise and an urgency. God is coming and the way is not yet made clear. You’d best get to it.
This call to prepare for God’s coming wasn’t given to an individual so she could take a personal inventory so much as it was given to a community. A faithful community has the resources to prepare for God to come into the world anew. Make straight the highway of our God. It sounds nice and poetic even. These aren’t just pretty lines from scripture, though. There’s a demand here. And I don’t think we hear it very well.
What do we know of how God enters into the world? Well, God shows up primarily in relationships. So if our relationships with each other and with creation are messed up, then those highways, those paths, God journeys along are pretty twisted up as well. How is God going to break into a world where hatred rules over love? Where guns and death are commonplace? Where children go hungry? Where people wander homelessly? You get the idea. Preparing the way for God suddenly seems a bit daunting, doesn’t it? It’s not as easy as singing Christmas carols and organizing pageants.
This is where community comes in. We as Church have the capacity to untangle those highways. We can work together to bring about justice for the oppressed in the world. What would happen if every church of every denomination demanded a welcome for refugees, justice for people of color, equality for LGBT folks, and care for the poor, the sick, the orphaned? And we went about actually doing these very things? We might just find that path that leads to peace.
I’m all for the feel-good part of the holiday season. Now I want to get to the do-good part. Instead of going to one more holiday party where the concern is food, clothing, and beverages, why not go to a rally for peace or a Black Lives Matter protest or a vigil for Syrian refugees or an interfaith gathering for prayer and conversation? Why not make this Advent about bringing justice and love into the world?
We aren’t meant to do this Advent thing alone. We are meant to join our voices together in calling for preparation and we are meant to join hands in untangling the highways for our God. God has called out to us. Now what?
Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.
Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;
for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
“Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”
RCL – Year C – Second Sunday in Advent – Peace – December 6, 2015
Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9