Saturday, November 28, 2009

1 Advent Yr C

My soul cries out with a joyful shout
That the God of my heart is great
And my spirit sings of the wond'rous things
That you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on the servant's plight
And my weakness you did not spurn
So from east to west shall my name be blest.
Could the world be about to turn?

My heart shall sing of the day you bring;
let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn.


Though I am small, my God, my all,
You work great things in me
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
To the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame
And to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight
For the world is about to turn.

From the halls of power to the fortress tower
Not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
Every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more
For the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, every mouth be fed
For the world is about to turn.

Though the nations rage from age to age
We remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us
From the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard
Is the promise which holds us bound
Till the spear and rod can be crushed by God,
Who is turning the world around.

My heart shall sing of the day you bring;
let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near,
and the world is about to turn.


The world is about to turn.

These are the words to the hymn we will sing at the offertory time. On this, the first day of the new year, the first day of advent, the first day of the last days, the world is about to turn. There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars. Advent is the most counter-cultural of our sacred seasons, even more so than Lent I suspect. The marketplace has been abuzz with Christmas long before Thanksgiving this year, really as soon as the Halloween candy wrappers were thrown away. We were advised that we didn’t have to wait to Black Friday to spend our money, we could get it all spent early. Don’t wait, don’t wait, it’s so very clear, the world out there is already at Christmas, and it is a Christmas that is unrecognizable.

But our sacred season sings to us, wait, be patient, stay alert, the world is about to turn. Wait, be patient, stay alert, let your spirit sing of the wondrous things that God brings to the ones who wait. The call of advent is to be actively engaged in the anticipation of God’s reign on earth, wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn. It is a call to discipleship, a call to be in the moments and experience the glimpses of incarnation. We can’t just jump over advent to Christmas. In this time of the quick fix, and even the rush to stimulate the economy, what if waiting is in fact what we really need?

God’s reign on earth is what we anticipate, the birth of God into the world 2000 years ago and the raising of Jesus from the dead, inaugurated God’s reign. We live in the time between the beginning and the end, and advent is the time we are given to wonder about and to anticipate God’s reign. The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn; there are tables spread, every mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn.

Our hymn points to God’s reign on earth; the world is about to turn. So what is it to be actively engaged in the anticipation of God’s reign on earth? What is it to be actively engaged in advent? What is it to be actively engaged in waiting? We do have some experience with waiting, we wait in line at the grocery store, we wait for paint to dry, we wait for the weekend. We wait for a child to be born, we can’t wait for a child to grow out of being two, or six, or thirteen. We can’t wait to finish college and get a real job, we can’t wait for our children to finally make it on their own. We wait for a parent or loved one to die. Part of the waiting is in anticipation of what life will be like when the waiting is over. As we wait, we may have the opportunity to reflect on life as it is and possibly to come to appreciate the glimpses of the wonder and beauty of life as it is. Maybe, we begin to see life differently, more clearly. Maybe, all the things we thought were important aren’t so important anymore. Maybe, the falseness is being stripped away, and what is left is a truer person, a person one who wants to plunge into every moment of life, no matter what, instead of sleepwalk through it. Maybe there is some transformation in the waiting.

At its best, Advent waiting transforms us. We are shown a glimpse of “what if.” What if the hungry poor weep no more, what if there are tables spread, and every mouth is fed. What if we approach our Advent waiting as a radical time of transformation?

The Good News is that Advent transformation isn’t born out of fear of the end of the world. Advent transformation comes from joy because the promise has already been given. For those with the eyes of faith, “what if” has already happened. God is already with us. The reign is at hand. Heaven is already here. And nothing will break God’s promise.

Our Advent active anticipation then is to make the world look more like the heaven that we already see by faith. We do this by focusing on the essentials—the basic things every human needs in order to reflect the divine. The poor have to be cared for, the hungry have to be fed, the homeless have to be sheltered, and the sick need to be healed. Forgiveness has to be offered, those at war must stop, and peace must be our legacy.

And so during Advent, we abstain from the flurry of Christmas not as a penitential punishment, but as a way to train our eyes to see God even without the angels and trees, crèches and stars. We focus instead on the basics of light in the darkness, silence in the chaos, and stillness in the turmoil. It’s almost as if Advent calls us to faith in the Real Absence of Christ—to believe in Emmanuel even in our darkness, in God-With-Us even when we hear no answer, and in the Incarnation even when we feel nothing at all.

Could the world be about to turn? It has, it is and it shall, that is God’s promise and that is our call.

Our King and Savior now draws near: Come let us adore him.

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