Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14
27 November 2016
A heart attack is a wake-up call to change our lifestyle.
Increased flooding is a wake-up call to changes in climate.
Recent elections are a wake-up call to changes in political moods.
Wake-up calls are usually warnings. A call to change.
Advent can be put in the same category.
Liturgically marked by a sombre purple, it belongs with the season of Lent as a time of penitence.
Prepare for the day of judgment.
God’s wagging finger is raised to reprimand us.
The end of the world is nigh.
But too many dates have come and gone.
That threat has lost its edge,
And so Advent has softened.
No longer anticipating the Second Coming of Christ, with its sombre overtones; but a safer historical run up to the First Coming of Immanuel.
When the historian, Tom Devine, was asked about the place of Scotland in a post-Brexit Britain, he replied: “The future is not my subject!” A contemporary approach to Advent takes the same view.
…… with a Difference
But Paul invites us out of our safe retreat into history and suggests a “wake-up call” with a difference:
The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because your salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (11)
A wake-up call – with a difference. Not to a day of destruction, but a day of salvation. Not time with a date attached – but a season of God’s time that is nearer than when we first believed. Not focusing on the Incarnation, but focusing on Resurrection – resurrection as a Cosmic occasion when God makes all things new.
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan writer on spirituality, speaks of our living in “the force field of resurrection”. God is always drawing us into the place of resurrection.
Our view of the cosmos is bracketed by the language of The Big Bang at the beginning and The Big Crunch at the end. But what if the end is “The Big Pull”? What if we are not facing the God’s wagging finger of judgement, but God’s “Beckoning Finger” finger of invitation to resurrection?
I have twin eight-year old grandsons. The other day I was doing homework with Joshua. His reading was about finding treasure. In the midst of the story he stumbled on the word “magnetometer” – an interesting word to find in a reading book for Primary 4. We had to look it up and discovered, of course, that a magnetometer measures the “force-field of a magnet”- its drawing power!
Advent is a time to reflect on the “drawing power” of God’s force-field of resurrection – in the face of all the other “force fields” that seem to work against it. None of them can “trump” God!
Night and Day
Advent does not mean avoiding the chaotic, confusing and faith-challenging events of life.
Earthquakes have wrecked homes and lives in Italy and New Zealand.
Thousands of civilians are suffering death and destruction in Aleppo and Mosul.
Political shifts to extremes of right and left leave moderate people looking anxiously over both shoulders.
Personal tragedies and ambush ordinary people every day.
For some the dark night of the soul seems endless with no dawn.
In Advent we stand in the dark and look East waiting for the dawn, listening to Paul’s words whispered in our ear:
The night is nearly over. The day is almost here.
On occasion I have stood on the harbour at Anstruther and watch the rising sun bringing its own unique colour to the world and then releasing the light that releases the world’s own colour.
As I stand there, I realise that I am watching an illusion. It is not the sun that rises, but the earth beneath my feet that is moving.
Another way of seeing the same event.
In Advent, as we watch, nothing seems to change as the news headlines assault our eyes and ears, but beneath our feet God is turning the earth towards the resurrection dawn.
The God of hope has spoken with defiant insistence of another possibility. Over 2500 years ago the prophet Isaiah – quoting Micah 200 years before – painted his picture of nations finding unity and turning swords into ploughshares, a society without war.
These ancient visions encourage us to dare to work for a better world, trusting that we are going with the grain of grace as God leads us through our multiple forms of death into a resurrection of all things that is beyond our imagining.
Listen carefully: The night is nearly over. The day is almost here.
Dressed for the Occasion
Advent is a time to choose how we shall live – to choose between the night and the day. Paul suggests that there is behaviour that has no place in the daylight of God’s resurrection reality.
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. (13)
We can hear these words spoken with a moralistic “wagging finger”: Thou shalt not… And feel the tug of guilt or resentment.
Or we can hear them spoken as an invitation to live the resurrection life now: That’s not being true to who you really are….Be yourself, your true self, the self God has made you to be…. the person God is bringing into being through Christ.
Freud spoke of our desires as “unfocused fire.” Jesus gave our deepest desires a twin focus: love God and love your neighbour, a search for transcendence and intimacy
When these desires are misdirected we may turn to various forms of narcotisation to dull the senses or to over-stimulate them.
We can be driven the need to be better than others, or eaten by jealousy of those who seem to be better than us.
Paul says: You are better than that. You are meant for more.
As Christmas comes upon us we will dress for the occasion.
Advent is time to get dressed for the occasion – to dress appropriately for our new life…. clothed in the Lord Jesus Christ – putting on his resurrection life, living in Christ and Christ living in us drawing us into that grace-filled, renewing “force-field of resurrection”.
The hour has come to wake up from our slumber for the day of our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
That is our Advent wake-up call!
Listen to the words of an ancient homily for Holy Saturday, Easter Eve:
I order you, O sleeper, to awake.
I did not create you to be a prisoner of hell.
Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.
Rise up, work of my hands. You were created in my image.
Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you.
Together, we form one person and we cannot be separated.
[Quoted in Immortal Diamond, Richard Rohr, p 107]