December, 2013 Minister’s Message
Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Have you ever waited so earnestly for something that you couldn’t sleep? I know that parents of teenagers know this feeling. She was supposed to be home at 11:00. It’s 1:30 and you haven’t heard from her. She’s not answering her phone or responding to text messages. Her friend’s mother hasn’t seen them all night, despite the fact that she told you that’s where she’d be – “Watching movies and hanging out.”
You may go to bed, but your heart is pounding. Every five minutes you hear something outside and you dart to the windows to check the driveway for her car. Starting tomorrow it’s the car she once drove. You don’t know how you will react when she comes home, but it will probably be some mixture of tears – tears of joy knowing she’s safe and tears of fear that you can’t contain yourself because of the madness you felt these last hours as you waited on pins and needles. You won’t do the usual when she gets home, eat cake and talk about her evening. Your stomach has been way too aggravated to tolerate any food. You’re shaking and you need to see your little girl.
I have another more suitable image of waiting that involves, um, “losing your innocence.” To date, all you have experienced is kissing and heavy petting. That’s been mind-blowing. Your whole body quakes at the thought of going further – the fear, the anticipation, the overwhelming nature of it all. That’s what I think of when I read or hear the words, “Fear and trembling before the Lord.”
This mixture of excitement and intensity is the sort of waiting we are supposed to feel in Advent … total, mind-blowing, body-quaking anticipation of what’s to come. God is coming to the earth and we are first on His stop. But He is going to level the playing field so that the poor can eat. That means we may not be able to eat so high on the hog again. In fact, meat is not an option, only fruits and veggies for everyone. And God is going to clothe everyone equally. That means you’ll only have one outfit to wear henceforth. And God needs a place for everyone to live. Make room! You’re going to have to share that four-bedroom house of yours with seventeen other people. Are you ready?
While I can’t make you feel that sense of anticipation during Advent, that’s the whole reason behind having a four-week liturgical season to prepare us for Christmas. That’s the reason that singing Christmas Carols in church during Advent drives some “liturgical preachers” wacky. Because most people in the United States can’t wait … won’t wait for Rudolph, Santa, Ralphy or Baby Jesus, much less the reconciling Messiah that the Hebrew prophets preached would right all the wrong in the world. We don’t know how to wait any more. We are a society of immediate gratification. We want what we want, when we want it - now.
I tell you all this because we have a smattering of Advent planned for Advent at East Church with Christmas in the middle of it for Music Sunday … and maybe a carol or two on a couple of December Sundays. But we are going to try to hold the tension. We will do our best to wait intensely. But we will do so with fear and trembling. And we are not sure how well we will do or what will happen come Christmas. But we can pray with hope, peace, joy and love – anticipating, wondering, longing, expecting. Nervously, not knowing how we will cope.
Will you join us?