Archives: 1 Advent

Jesus Says “Keep Your Chin Up”

Happy New Year!

That’s right, today is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year, and Jesus starts us off with a bang. We’re going to have to find the Good News within these texts, because honestly on the surface they seem like bad news.

“People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken,” Jesus says. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Goodness. That’s dramatic. And pretty scary.

Apocalypse always seems like bad news to those of us who have power and wealth.

But remember, apocalypse, the total upending of the universe’s order, seems like Good News to the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed.

For them, God coming in and blowing up everything and starting over with justice and mercy sounds brilliant.

Apocalypse is only bad news to those of us who think we have something to lose.

But there’s one verse that jumped out at me that definitely is Good News, even for those of us who are at the top of the pyramid and can’t always identify with Jesus’ audience. And that verse is this: “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Stand up and raise your heads.

Or as your mom might have said to you when you were a kid, “Hold your head up and your shoulders back, you weren’t born under a rock.”

Or, when she saw you were feeling down, “Keep your chin up.”

This is an interesting instruction from Jesus, one of the only ones I know of in the gospels where he gives us a commandment for our physical posture. Continue reading

Good News: The End Is Nigh

You have no idea how tempted I was to get in the pulpit today wearing a big sandwich board sign that said, “The end is nigh!”

It’s Advent, and the texts chosen for us to study and reflect on in the Advent season are often chaotic and dramatic, foreshadowing the end of the world.

There are themes of apocalypse woven throughout, whether it is John the Baptist or Mary the Mother of Jesus talking about social apocalypse or Jesus talking about cosmic apocalypse.

We hear in our scripture readings on Sunday mornings about valleys being made low and hills lifted up, about the mighty being cast down from their thrones, about the axe being at the root of the tree and the chaff being burnt with unquenchable fire.

As I’ve preached before, despite what the onslaught of saccharine Christmas commercialization would have us believe, Advent is not really a tender and gentle time. It is about dramatic and earth-shattering upheaval.

And our texts for this Sunday are no exception. Jesus tells us that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

That’s pretty intimidating.

And Isaiah seems positively eager for everything to go to hell in a handbasket.

“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence, as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil.”

He can’t wait!

Here is another opportunity to remind ourselves how different our outlook is from the people who originally heard these words proclaimed.

What kind of people are eager to see society torn limb from limb and for God to erupt into history with righteous vengeance? Continue reading

A Magnificat Advent Calendar

The Advent calendar is a cherished winter tradition. We open a paper door on each day of the calendar from Advent until Christmas and read a saying or Bible verse to reflect upon spiritually. If the person who bought us the calendar really splashed out, we might get some chocolate out of each day’s slot as well! (I’ll give you three guesses as to which daily gift I gave more heed to when I was little, the Bible verse or the chocolate.)

I’d like to offer a different type of calendar as we enter the season. The Magnificat, or Song of Mary, is the cornerstone text of Advent. This is Mary’s response in Luke 1 after the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will bear a child and name him Jesus, and Mary goes to share the news with her cousin Elizabeth.

The Magnificat as it occurs in the Book of Common Prayer in the canticles for Morning and Evening Prayer contains twenty verses, including the Gloria Patri. If you were to pray about one of these verses every day except Sunday, they would cover from November 28 (the First Monday of Advent) through December 20, with December 21-24 open to reflect upon the entire text. I am curious as to what our Christmas worship would be like if we each committed to this simple spiritual discipline.

To help you out, I’ve created this “Magnificat Month” Advent calendar below. Continue reading

People Will Say We’re In Love

The extent to which I care about end-times predictions and the Second Coming is approximately zero.

Yes, that makes me a terrible priest, but, well, it’s not my first sin and won’t be my last.

I just get so impatient with all the code-breaking of the Book of Revelation and all the calculating of who’s in and who’s out of the Magical 144,000 and especially all of the, “Why take care of the environment or address systemic injustices of racism and poverty? Jesus is going to show up any day now and blow up the whole Earth!”

I just…I just can’t.  I’m so sorry.

But our Gospel reveals that I am not on the same page with Jesus (again, not for the first time and not for the last). Continue reading

Sewing the Armor of Light

Ahem.

Chooga-chooga-chooga-bzzzzzzzzzzz.

Kerchunk, kerchunk.

Chooga-chooga-chooga-bzzzzzzzzzzz.

“Mom, can I look at your buttons?”

“Yes, dear, you can play with the button box as long as you clean up what you spill.”

Chooga-chooga-chooga.

“Today on Oprah, a breakthrough in healthy weight loss.”

“Merideth, don’t let the twins put buttons in their mouths, they might choke.  Whitney, come over here and let me hold this up to you.  I think you’re having a growth spurt.”

“Okay.  Mom, why can’t I have white like Maggie’s dress?”

“Because you look so pretty in green.  And look at this beautiful lace for your collar.”

“I want beautiful lace too!  Mooommmm!”

“Merideth, your dress will be lovely, and do not make me ask you again to keep those buttons away from the twins.”

Chooga-chooga-chooga.

Kerchunk.

Chooga-chooga-buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Continue reading

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