Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent--A Chance to Find our Way Again

Here we are again. Dusting off the Advent wreath, collecting new candles, hoping we don’t forget the matches. Carefully examining the wicks of all five of the candles. Maybe it was last year or the year before—but into the darkened church a family walked down the aisle on Christmas Eve with a lighted candle. The daughter carried a flickering taper. At the altar, she gave the candle to her father, then it was the Mother’s turn and the son and the daughter was to light the last two candles. Except—the Christ candle in the very middle wouldn’t light. She tried everything. Nothing worked. It was a very long moment. Finally she thrust the candle lighter at her father and stalked off in a huff. No wonder we check the wicks to make sure they will burn.

But all this is window-dressing. And to the Advent wreath with all it symbolism we could add the glorious music, the splendid decorations and even the preacher’s sermons. The main point is to get us ready and perhaps all this staging really might help. But what truly matters are the old words we keep coming back to year after year. “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people...” The dayspring from on high shall visit us...””Let your face shine upon us...” Or “Behold a virgin shall conceive...” They never really grow old these words we have heard every Christmas season. Hopefully they will pry open our hearts until we really are awe-struck all over again with the wonder of it all. Madeleine L’Engle called it the glorious impossible.

I don’t know a time in my life when we need an Advent more. It is a troublesome time. People are hurting everywhere. Many folk do not have enough money to make it through the month. 100,00 of our men and women will come limping home from the war before the year ends. Dear God, I hope they can look around and see something that make all their efforts seem worthwhile.

Listen closely to the Advent texts this year. The I Corinthians passage (1.3-9) “He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (vs.8) Paul wrote to a troubled fussy people. Sound familiar? They seemed to have lost the way. And Paul called them back with a promise. You will be kept. He used this word nine times in this letter.

Months ago I wrote the word, KEEP and stuck the post-it next to my computer. There is so much that makes many of us wonder if the sky really is falling. Economics, meanness, greed and so much that we cannot control. It really is out of our hands. But maybe we ought to hang on to this little word, keep. Could be a life raft to keep us afloat during this very stormy time? Paul thought so.

And so we come to church. We light our candles. We hear the music and then listen to the old words. My prayer for me and mine and all of us is that in the middle of all this madness we will discover that golden word: keep. May he keep us all strong to the end. Maybe this Advent really can help us find the way.

1 comment:

  1. i always look forward to your light; it is so very dark these days.