1 Advent Year C

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Text for 1 Advent: Jeremiah 33:14-16, Luke 21:25-36, “Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyon

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“Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.”

Thank you, Jane Kenyon.
Let it come…let evening come.

In the popular imagination
the events Jeremiah and Jesus are talking about
are the of end time
or the apocalypse
or the rapture
or the even the eschaton.

It is invariably imagined as violent.
It is also imagined,
by many Christians who still expect
such an event to take place,
to be the defining moment
that finally rewards faithfulness
while punishing faithlessness.

It somehow gets focused on threatening images
of torturous pain and punishment
inflicted by a God of an abacus justice —
you know, sitting in a cosmic cave
tabulating each human being’s goods and bads
to determine a happy salvation or eternal agony.

Why is it that we think the God
who created such magnificent beauty
and exquisite inter-locking bioms of life,
here and likely all across the cosmos,
is an abusive parent?
Better yet, why do we hang onto that notion?

Frankly, if I had to imagine it at all,
I would prefer to think about the end of time
as a birth — you know,
like a baby’s first gasp of bountiful air.

I could go with that image
but truly, I don’t really expect God
to suddenly put a zipper on it
and zip us out of existence.
Not God anyway.
I do fully expect
that one day
the Earth will be a cinder
cooling off in space even before
our sun dies…because all stars finally do.

But of that day and that hour no one knows.

Given the promise of grace,
the consistent promise of love,
and the echoing whisper about mercy
that comes cascading
out of the Bible,
in both Hebrew and Christian texts,
I simply cannot fathom
God zapping the Earth
and most of the people on it
like the Evil Empire’s Death Star
from the Star Wars movies.

In the next few weeks of Advent
we will hear some of that violent end-time imagery
and it is not difficult to figure out
why ancient people expected such things.

Think about it.
When you have so little knowledge
about the cosmic environment,
and a tragically narrow sphere of control,
a sudden apocalypse
would be consistent with the rest of your experience.

Those ancients did not get much warning
about a storm like the whopper rains we had this fall.
Even though our weather forecasting
leaves a lot to be desired,
our satellites watch weather sweep across the mountains
Great Plains
and the mid-western belly of the nation
before finally crossing our threshold.
But for those ancients
storms just hit – BAM!

So did the Roman army just arrive without warning.
The cohorts that raped wives and daughters
and cut off the hands of sons
and took bread, flour, and goats,
just appeared.

Bandits that attacked too, they appeared without warning.
The lion who ate their neighbor,
the famine the swept over the land,
the disease that began as a rash and ended with internal bleeding
and finally gushed blood from every orifice.
Anything and everything just appeared
or arrived without warning.

You know, our existence really obscures
so much of the life context of people before us.
It is said that all of us here
have a better quality of life than King Henry VIII.
Think about that.
We know that death and tragedy
can arrive at any moment,
but our lives are generally so sanitized,
so anesthetized,
so protected
that we create violence in movies,
television, and video games
just to scare ourselves.

Can you imagine
that those ancient people who lived
with that kind of minute by minute insecurity
would then choose to watch a Stephen King movie

No wonder those ancients expected the end to come
with a rush of divine violence…
that was their every day experience:
insecurity, grim violence, and randomness.

If we can look around at the world
while standing in their shoes,
we can see that if God didn’t
make things right with the world
and finally reverse the fortunes
they had been losing out on,
who would or could?

God must make things right at the end
or what was all this about anyway?
So I can see why the ancients
envisioned apocalypse at the end of time –
almost courted it.

But I cannot understand
how modern recipients of consumeristic privilege
also hope and pray for it.

But I don’t have to understand.
I’m sticking with Jeremiah.
The days are coming
”when I will fulfill the promise…”
To me that means
there is a baby coming any minute,
next month or tomorrow,
and nobody knows his or her name.

That is the kind of waiting
this month of Advent invites us into –
a gaggle of hopeful,
slightly anxious friends and family
watching the maternal belly expand
…and waiting, waiting, waiting.
It is not our belly,
not even our baby,
but we know that when it comes
everything will be different.
And we don’t know its name.

Right there,
is the itch I want to scratch today.
It is not our belly,
not our baby,
and we know that when it comes
everything will be different.
And still, we don’t even know its name.

“Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.”

That is how I envision Advent.
A time of waiting without knowing.

A time to recollect and remember
that the very best gifts we ever received
were ones we didn’t even know to ask for.

“Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.”