Last Sunday and again today John the Baptist is front and center calling for God’s people to, ‘prepare the way of the Lord’, and to ‘make straight his path in the wilderness’. And you know – maybe I’m hopelessly hopeful or sadly naïve – but I think we would, truly, if we knew what that meant for us and how to do it. If we could only hear, in the cacophony and contentiousness and wilderness of this world we’re living, if we could only hear this one voice calling.
When I was little and my family was heading to North Carolina or West Virginia to visit our grandparents, we four children and my parents crammed into a station wagon with all our bags and sometimes pets and headed off on what was usually a five hour drive. Before driving off, we often got lined up outside the car for a little talking to. My mother usually took the lead and would say things like, ‘look, no fighting, keeps your hands to yourself and no picking on each other’. And then she or my Dad would add, ‘if we have to pull over to straighten you all out, it will be a ‘reign of terror’ I promise you’.
Of course, there was no way we could make it five hours in a car like that as little angels. Inevitably, at some point flying down the road in the middle of some fracas or brouhaha in the back seat, we’d sense that the car was abruptly slowing down, the blinker was on and we were pulling off the road. This brought a sudden hush to we four kids and one or the other of us would say, ‘uh oh, reign of terror’.
In her beautiful sermon last week, Amelia McDaniel reminded us that the time in which we live is sacred; which means that God’s hands are on it and that God’s own Spirit leads the times of our going forth and our coming home again. Now of course, the ticking of a clock leads us forth too and brings us home, because children have to get up and off to school and we have work to go to and meetings to make. But we do live lives upon which God is writing the life of his son, Christ the Lord, through the times of our lives: times of being lost and being found, times of healing and being healed, times of darkness and the light of revelation. God’s redeeming love is woven all through the living of our days as we are given eyes to see and ears to hear.
And today it is the beginning of the season of Advent, the first season of the new Church Year. The word Advent means ‘coming’ which directs us to shake off any sleepy-headedness and look to the future with a holy hope for the Lord’s own coming into our lives. We are people called to be alive and awake with hope in this sacred time, and not fall asleep. The Bible readings for this Sunday couldn’t be clearer. The Apostle Paul writing to the Church in Rome says, ‘you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep’. In the Gospel reading, Jesus’ jarring images: a flood, a kidnapper, a thief sharpen the same point – stay awake; for the Lord is near.
By: Amelia McDaniel, Lay Associate for Christian Formation
Recently, a friend who clearly knows me well sent me this quote…
Some parents run a tight ship. I run a pirate ship. There is some swearing, some drinking, and a touch of mutiny.
I run a house with two teenagers. I identify. But I imagine that God belly laughs at this just as much as I do. We humans are a regular goat rodeo on a good day. Wrangling us into some kind of order? I cannot even fathom. Thank goodness God is merciful. In my home we’ve gone from chore charts to texting chores and reminders as one of the ways I try to impose some order on our days. I keep a family calendar with the ridiculous number of activities and events all logged in. It is a moving target. Often I miss things and am unaware of something I was supposed to know or do. Getting my arms and my head around the daily life we lead is near impossible.
One of the things that I cherish about our way of worship is the liturgical year, the order we try to impose so we can pay attention to the life of Jesus. That may sound horribly dry and boring. But it’s true. I love this way of ordering our days so we know what we are supposed to be doing when we show up. But it also much more than that, it is a perpetual way to show up and meet Jesus again anew.
Several years ago I found myself buckling myself into my seat as the big commercial jet I was in was taxi-ing out onto the runway at the airport. The man sitting next to me was probably my age, a cheerful healthy looking guy in a sporty blazer and smart tie. A few minutes later as the jet’s engines began to rev to get us turned out onto the runway for take-off, he turned to me and said, ‘well if this thing falls out of the sky, I’m not worried – I am ready for heaven!’ He sat there beaming at me broadly waiting for me to say something. But what he had said, he had said with a kind of kind of exuberance and excitement that left me not sure what to say. So I only sat there with a half-hearted grin til he gave up and turned away.
It was a big jet with two aisles so I had a good view of those sitting nearby. Just across the aisle, a mom I guessed was buckling her three or four year old daughter into her seat and then brushing back her little girl’s bangs from her face and leaning in speaking with her reassuringly. The little girl’s eyes were as large as saucers. Nearby, was an older couple their two hands clasped together and perched on the armrest between them. His head was leaned back, his eyes closed. She stole a glance at him and a smile came across her face. In another seat, a man was scanning an Excel spread sheet on his laptop screen and then scrunching up his face thinking about something with a small little ‘worry-line’ that came creeping across his forehead. What was he thinking of: an especially important presentation on which much was riding professionally and personally? the hope to get home soon and get off the road and see his wife and kids for a few days? Right at hand, two young people – maybe college kids – dressed pretty eccentrically, tapping away at their SmartPhones with one of them saying something to the other in a funny made-up accent. Towards the front, I could see the two flight attendants sharing something funny and then one of them shooshing the other. The one looked momentarily worried that she’d said something wrong til the other placed her hand on the other’s forearm reassuringly.