What Are We Waiting For – Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent by Dave Hens

Advent-2009-Flyer-300x200

jesus is Coming - What Do We Expect?

This post in the series Jesus is Coming What are We Waiting For comes from David Henson.  I am posting it today because I know that many of us like to get a head start on our reflections for Sundays. If you would like a sneak preview of some of the other upcoming posts check out the links on the Advent synchroblog site :

Advent synchroblog link list part 1 

Advent Synchroblog second link list ___________________________________________________________________________________

Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 40:1-11, II Peter 3:8-15a, Mark 1:1-8

“First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging in their own lusts saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation … The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance!”

*****

O come, O come, Emmanuel

But God is late.

And ransom captive Israel

But where is this promise of the Lord’s coming, of God with us, Emmanuel, again, for things have continued as they were from the beginning of the world?

That mourns in lonely exile here

But here wolves still tear lambs limb from limb. Captives remain caged. Ploughshares are wielded as swords, and the poor get poorer, hungrier. The wages of sin stalk the world with renewed vigor and devilish creativity. And the good news, too often, drowns in a roiling sea of sorrow and rage.

Until the Son of God appear.

But we are to wait. And we continue to wait.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

But when? The expectation of God’s imminent return, of God’s ultimate deliverance, ripples through these texts of Advent. Set against the backdrop of socioeconomic turmoil, Jewish rebellion, Roman suppression, and the eventual destruction of the Temple, it is easy to understand this apocalyptic mindset. In the context of presumed end-times upheaval, it is easy to ask followers to wait on the Lord if the relief of apocalypse is a mere generation away, as Jesus promised in last week’s texts. It is easier to see the blood of martyrs water the earth and the smoke from a burning Temple choke out the sky when retribution and redemption will follow in just a few years.

It is easy to wait with an end in sight. It is much harder to endure the command to wait some 2,000 years later.

The end that had been promised by Jesus and elsewhere in the Christian sacred texts never came as expected. The return of Jesus has been delayed—maybe indefinitely, or at least that’s how it seemed. Perhaps a union of angels had threatened to strike over some heavenly grievance. It’s not hard to imagine that, say, there were too many damn rooms to clean in the Father’s house and God’s time clock, where a thousand days were like an hour, never paid a living wage. Perhaps Jesus—Emmanuel, God with us—got distracted, lost interest, or just plain forgot what with all the bells, whistles and wings twinkling and fluttering around him as the Resurrected Lord. Perhaps that chair at the right hand of God reclined a bit too much, was a bit too warm and cozy beside the fiery warmth of God.

Whatever the case, he’s late. And, yet, we are still to wait, despite the deep temptation this Advent season to simply open ourselves up to the pain of a hard truth: he’s not coming back as we have expected him to.

And, for that, we should be thankful, because the way in which Christians for centuries have expected the return of God isn’t exactly the good news we might expect from the Son of Man who came to heal the sick, preach good news to the poor and usher in the peaceful, reconciling Reign of God. The author of second Peter reminds his readers that, in the end, instead of persecuted Christians being burned up as they were then, it would be the nonbelievers, and, indeed, the entire world that would be dissolved in flames. In fact, the world, as it is now, is being stored up specifically for fire.

In other words, it turns out that our current terrestrial, island home has been made, in the end, to be obliterated. When Christ returns, the author of the epistle informs us, Emmanuel won’t come bearing a cross, offering to wash feet or restoring sight to blind. He will instead bring a blazing torch and the heavens and earth, and the sinners within, will burn in white-hot retaliatory rage.

In that case, then, don’t come back at all. If the epistle’s author is indeed correct in his eschatological vision, then, forgive me for saying so, God, but I’d rather you, regardless of your immanence here, simply keep your distance.

In that case, the cruelty of humanity might just be a mercy compared the judgment of God. Or at least there’s very little discernible difference between a God who wants to watch the world burn and a species all too ready to light the match. Indeed, perhaps we are made in the image of our Creator.

It’s not that we’re handling things just fine down here on this tightly wound mortal coil. Clearly, we are not. We’ve bound ourselves in enough knots that it might take another millennium to untangle ourselves. Or perhaps a fiery meltdown is the only way out of the mess we’ve made of things. But I’d like to think things aren’t quite so bad, that not all hope is lost.

I’d like to think that there is yet reason to still wait.

And if we can manage to listen closely to what the author is saying in the epistle, there is a beautiful truth to be found among the deathly cold indifference of bombastic end-of-world warnings, like a bright crocus blooming and shivering in a quiet blanket of forest snow. The author’s surprising point isn’t that the return of the Christ means the destruction of the world. That was already an expectation of his readers and an understandably human vision of divine retribution from an author who had likely seen his brothers and sisters murdered, burned, plundered and raped. The unexpected assertion—the joyful good news of it—isn’t that God is coming back, but that God has not yet come back as promised.

The good news is that God does not want the earth destroyed in fire, that God does not want anyone to perish. God wants all to come to repentance—which is to say, God wants all to live under the Reign of God, the way of peace, reconciliation and kenotic grace incarnated by Jesus. And when more and more of us commit ourselves to these kinds of “lives of holiness and godliness” as we wait for the return of Emmanuel, then, by the time our waiting is complete, we will have been co-creators and citizens of the a new heaven and a new earth already thriving on earth.

In other words, this Advent, realize that we are what we have been waiting for. This Advent, amid the old heaven and old earth in which things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation, be the return of Jesus,be Emmanuel, the God with humanity, be the second coming of Christ, bethe new heaven and the new earth.

The good news this Advent is that all this time, while we thought we were waiting on God, it was in fact God that was waiting on us.

And God is waiting still.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

David  Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalist. He is currently a postulant for the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. His meditations and reflections on Scripture have appeared in Ready the Way: A Walk Through Advent, a 2009 publication of the Episcopal Church, Patheos.com, the Christian Century Web site and various blogs. Follow his writing at his Facebook page or on twitter. This post was first published at Patheos.com as What Are We Waiting for – Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent.

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Expect the Unexpected by Tracy Dickerson

Today’s post comes from Tracy Dickerson. It was first posted on her blog Nacreous Kingdom as Expecting the Unexpected. If you would like a sneak preview of some of the other upcoming posts check out the links on the Advent synchroblog site:

Advent synchroblog link list part 1 

Advent Synchroblog second link list 

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Giotto - annunciation

Giotto - annunciation

During the Advent season, we are in a state of expectation. We are waiting, longing, and looking forward to the arrival. But how that plays out over the period of a fortnight or so is as individual as it is intriguing.

The word “expecting” is an interesting one. It can be a verb: “I am expecting a package in the mail.” It can also used as a descriptor: “She is expecting.” (Similar to: “She is glowing.”)

When we link the idea of advent and expectation, what immediately comes to mind is how a pregnant Mary must have felt…what she thought…how she dreamed and planned…

 

We get a glimpse of that when we read her words in Luke 1:46-55~

46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

 

It is clear from these words, exclaimed in response to the angel Gabriel’s declaration that she would bear the Messiah, that she fully expected the babe in her womb to very literally overthrow the Roman occupiers of Palestine. It is- I suspect- how any one of us would have reacted…what any one of us would have imagined. As we also often do, Mary was “pondering the things of the past” (Isaiah 43:18) and based her reaction on what she already knew of God- a very human response.

 

But as she watched the babe grow into a young man and a then a full-grown man, her relationship with God and His son matured. As this happened, we can be sure that she developed a more knowledgeable and informed understanding of her son and a broader understanding of the full scope His mission to the entire world. We can see this process clearly developing in the next chapter of Luke, where we see Mary watching her twelve-year-old son ingeniously debate with the learned religious leaders in the temple. Observing his keen spiritual insight and maturity, she “kept all these things in her mind, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) It is quite clear that her understanding and expectations of Him were being transformed. Observing what she did in the temple, she could not help but realize that God was preparing Jesus for so much more than what she had originally imagined.

And so it is with us. When we begin our walk with him, we have certain expectations of what Jesus will do, and how he will “show up” in our lives. But as our relationship with Jesus develops with time and intimacy, our expectations of how He “shows up” in our lives begins to expand and transform. We move from mere expectations of salvation, protection, and prosperity (very ‘me-centered’ expectations, if we are honest with ourselves about it) to expectations that are more Christ-centered, more wholistic, more robust.

An important question to ask ourselves (not only during the Advent season, might I add) is this:

 

“Jesus is Coming: What Do We Expect?” 

More Resources for Advent 2011

There are so many good resources out there for Advent this year that it is a little overwhelming trying to discern which ones to take notice of. Here are some of my favourites – some new some old, that I have come across in the last week or so.

I have already mentioned John Van de Laar’s book There’s A Ne World Coming and Advent in Two Minutes – An Introduction to the Season but these are both such excellent resources that I wanted to make sure that I highlighted them again.

Intervarsity’s Emerging Scholar’s blog is hosting a series this Advent. I particularly enjoyed this post: Why Bother with Advent. 

And Chris Smith is hosting another series on the SlowChurch blog. based on Daily Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary. I particularly enjoyed his first post Fear Not 

This post on Celebrating Advent with Kids and if you know of other resources that should be added to this list I would love to hear from you.

Bosco Peters in New Zealand has excellent liturgical resources available and Tom and I are particularly enjoying the lectionary readings that he has put together for this year.

For those who are looking for sermon ideas and a vast array of resources beyond my ability to put together visit visit textweek.com. Their resources for Advent are outstanding.

For a more extensive list of links to a rich array of resources in the UK check out Big Bible

Last but not least I came across this Taize song today – it seemed a very appropriate start to the Advent season.

Jesus Is Coming Will I Get What I Desire? by Dave Wainscott

This morning I have chosen a very provocative but thought provoking post by Dave Wainscott who blogs at holy heteroclite where this post first appeared as For Advent I Am Expecting What I Desire. The post is far too long for me to repost in its entirety but I thought that you would like these excerpts to whet your appetites.

Will we get what we desire?

Jesus is Coming - Will we get what we desire?

For Advent this year, I expect to get: what I desire and deserve.
Many reading that will say it sounds heretical;
but I can back it up with sound theologians.
Some reading that statement will be incensed; saying it smells
counter-intuitive, paradoxical,  subversive and unobvious.
Of course it does; all legitimate gospel must smell that way.  Such is incense.

First of all, note I didn’t sat “For Christmas, I want..” No… it reads,  “for  Advent.”

How could I want anything amiss if I really believe it’s Advent? Advent is Christmas converted.
(Though inevitably, even Christmas and Advent wishes can be co-opted by culture…or worse, Christian culture (“Our making of images to present our work in ministry is not invulnerable to idolatry”, John Tschetter reminds)…Thus,  the Advent Conspiracy is  recommended.

First from U2 with Dave’s comment For me, to claim “But I believe in the Israelite” is to desire Him. and to dare to believe that, as another lyric in the song offers “On Christnas we get what we deserve.”

And from Fr. Martin (who is chaplain to The Colbert Report):

Advent is a time of desire.  We desire the coming of Christ into our lives.  The readings from the Book of Isaiah, which we hear during the season, reveal even the earth desiring the presence of God.  The wonderful “O antiphons,” sung at evening prayer and during the Gospel acclamations towards the end of Advent, speak of Christ at the “King of Nations and their Desire.”

Madame Guyon:

“It is almost impossible for me not to desire all that God desires..  so one lets  their desires flow into God only in order to desire according to his movement,and to will through his will. -Autobiography of Madame Guyon

First Monday of Advent – Advent Re-imagining Everything by Ron Cole

It is the first Monday of Advent. Black Friday sales are behind us (just found out that the name means that this is the weekend when most stores expect to go from red to black in their accounts) and many are feeling weary.

This post from Ron Cole seemed appropriate for the day. It was first posted on his blog Weary Pilgrim as Advent – Re-imagining Everything. Ron is a musician, writer, artist…a day dreamer. he makes his living employed as a laboratory technologist in a local acute care hospital. He lives on a small island off the West Coast of Canada. He is consumed by thoughts of faith on the fringe of all religion, that is found in the midst of humanity in the global village. IHe is consumed by redemptive imagination rebirthing the reality of kin-dom of kinship…One creation, One humanity.

The weary pilgrim

The weary pilgrim... waiting

Two thousand years of wandering down the corridor of history and things are looking a little dilapidated. We look out the window and see a climate that is less predictable, in some cases best described as extreme. We see a global economy that has best looked like a poker game where none of the big name players had the sense to fold their cards and walk a way…and realize it wasn’t just money, it was lives. As the gap between rich and poor widens, the middle class vanishes, slipping way, and the chasm widens even further. Social well-fare by government and society, taking care of the least, is now dog eat dog, every man for himself. What was once short term unemployment has become a constant way of life for many. Oppressive, dictatorial political regimes can no longer control the message in cyberspace,in a internet connected world. The middle ground of level headed, hospitable and open-table conversation has been lost in the polarization of left and right, liberal and conservative…democrat and republican. And the west continues to try and preserve the status quo, to maintain it’s deserved life style…it grows increasing more blind to third world poverty. The so called dark continent becomes darker only because we have turned the lights out. In the world of religion there have been some break through, but still there can only be one that is right, and the rest wrong. As the church in many places shrinks it has the distorted perception it is being persecuted by the secular world.

So on the threshold of Advent 2011 again humanity waits, and is more desperate than ever for some kind of divine intervention.

Superjesus-217x300

We want a divine Mr. Fix It, some one who can do an extreme make over, some one who can do an extreme renovation. We want divine business administrator who can wave a wand and generate jobs, and at the snap of a finger…make money. We want a kind of divine farmer whose good a building fences keep ” us ” on the greener side of the fence…and everyone else over there. We want a God that’s like us, and likes what we like. And well, we want a savior that is more of a retirement planner that can guarantee a reservation in an all inclusive resort when time on earth winds down to nothing.

Again, as every christmas, Christians want everything except…Jesus.

Maybe we’re asking for something Jesus never really offered? Maybe, we just didn’t get Jesus? We, as humanity were asking for one thing…a savior, a divine Mr. Fix It…and Jesus offered something just too profoundly redemptive beyond our imagination. In John’s gospel it say’s, Jesus pitched his tent, moved into our neighborhood…into the midst of humanity. He didn’t move in with them, the others or just ” like ” us…he moved into the reality of all humanity, all its diversity, and beauty. Jesus embraced it ” all “…he became one of ” Us ” all of us. Emmanuel, ” God with us.”

In his divinity, this God-man gravitated towards the oppressed, the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, the sick, the sinner, the widow and orphan…it’s because it’s the reality of what God is, ” compassion and justice.” The arc of this God, who Jesus described as ” Love ” has always bent towards compassion and justice. But that is not to say Jesus did not engage the wealthy, and the middle class. He erased borders, boundaries and knocked down fences to where we could see the image of God in each other.

It was here in this messed up world in the midst of poverty, oppression, war, the empire selling it’s story of prosperity and security…where we kept asking and waiting for a Messiah. Fix the mess, put the people we like, and the people like us in charge…and affirm ” our ” religion and we’ll be happy. And Jesus had the nerve to say ” you can’t mark the time on a calendar; you can’t say it’s over there or over here…because ” it’s ” here among you…it’s in your midst.”

” It “, was the ” Kingdom ” this wild scandalous redemptive place the blew the mind of humanity. It was world so unlike ours, it was the world upside down…or really ” right side up. The manifesto of the Kingdom could be summed up in the opening of his journey in which he shared on the side of a hill. For the most part we have avoided it like the plague, or have reduced to mere spirituality that we light now and then like incense only to snuff it out should we think to deeply about it.

The Kingdom was where the last would be first, the hungry would be fed, the oppressed would have a voice, the widow and orphan taken care of, debts forgiven, swords and weapons turned into farming tools, loving your enemies, the prodigal sons and daughters would come home, it wouldn’t matter where you worshipped…church, temple, mosque, synagogue or mountain, country and politics didn’t matter…it was how big is your humanity. It really was about how much you love God and your neighbor…this where what it meant to be human hung in balance.

Jesus, the God-man saw everything, and lived life differently…he was the reality of what happens when divinity and humanity merge. It’s is not a cosmic collision of destruction of judgement and violence. It is an embrace of divine love when heaven comes to earth…when a new earth, a new creation comes into being. Jesus saw that it could be here now, that it was in fact among us, in our midst…if we had the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

As quickly as he came, his message was to dangerous, to wild, and crazy…we killed the messenger.

This Advent I am focusing on ” Emmanuel ” this God that is with us…this Jesus that was one of us. But more this world that consumed his imagination, his words and his life. But more than that, he caught glimpses of its beauty and reality among us.

I believe more than ever that Kingdom is here. And if we dared imagined, and built it as Jesus saw it we could see the fullness of all humanity and new world…a new creation. Dare we just imagine this christmas…imagine and live profoundly differently.

jesus Is Coming – What Do We Expect?

virgin mary from Jesusmafa.com

African Virgin Mary with child from Jesusmafa.com

A few days ago I invited you to join us for Advent beginning with a synchroblog November 23rd and moving through Advent with daily reflections drawn both from these and other contributions. Here are the first of those links which will be reposted on this blog together with other contributions throughout the Advent season. Enjoy!

The God Who Would Be Friend – Theresa Froehlich

The following post was submitted by Theresa Froehlich for the series Jesus is Coming What Do We Expect? which should begin tomorrow with the beginning of Advent. However it seemed a very appropriate forerunner to the season so I thought that I would begin a little early with the journey.

Advent candle holder waiting to be filled

Advent candle holder waiting to be filled

 

The advent candle holder is on our dining table, ready for the special advent candles that represent Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

The candle holder is a round one with five Angels looking outward. After we carefully insert the Advent candles into their individual cavities, we light the candles and we read from the Advent devotional book. The devotional readings remind us that Christ has come, that he is Immanuel, God with us, and that he will come again. This simple ceremony is a powerful and profound experience as we look on the flames of the flickering candle giving light in darkness, savoring the real presence of Jesus Christ.

Advent is a season of waiting, hoping, reflecting and anticipating. The whole world is reflecting on their life during the first eleven months of the year and wondering what they could expect in the New Year.

During the Advent season, Christians attempt to focus our attention on the coming of Jesus Christ. Almost 2000 years ago, the coming of the Christ Child turned the world upside down. When this child became a grown man, he was crucified on the cross to save us from our sin. Throughout the centuries, the world continues to debate about Jesus. Who is Jesus Christ? Why did he come? Why would he give himself as a sacrifice? Why do Christians continue to make a big deal about his coming?

The answer to all these questions is found in an unlikely source. When Jesus was tried by Pontius Pilate, the governor found no guilt and wanted to release Jesus. The Jews put pressure on Pilate to crucify Jesus, saying “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar’s (John 19:12).” To the Jews, the choice was rather clear: the choice of friendship is mutually exclusive. To the Jews, choosing Jesus Christ as friend is to turn away from other allegiances.

The coming of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy about him, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34). But this prophecy was not fulfilled in the usual, political manner that most people would’ve expected. The God-King came to offer friendship so that he can become the king in our hearts. When we accept his offer of friendship, he becomes the Emmanuel, God with us, in our lives.

While the world is marking the beginning of Advent with a Black Friday shopping spree, we have an invitation from the Christ-Child to become his friend. How might you respond to this invitation?

Theresa Froehlich is a Certified Life Coach, Writer, Speaker, and ordained minister. She is a native of Hong Kong. She is married to Hervey Froehlich and they have two grown children. You can read more of her postings at http://www.transitionslifecoaching.org