Reflection on Advent and Christmas

A Feast Of Welcome And Inclusion

This past Wednesday, deeply troubling events in our nation called our attention away from the Feast of Epiphany. And yet, Epiphany it was. Epiphany is a feast that celebrates the light of God that shines in the deep shadows of our brokenness and our jagged ways of treating one another, illuminating a way forward. The Gospel for the day throws into sharp relief the story of a tyrannical and violent king who would hold onto power at all costs—and a poor family on the run from his political terror, a family who guarded the safety of a different, liberating kind of servant leader. It is a feast of welcome and inclusion, offering a vision of human community that comes together around the child who shall lead us—rather than pulling apart and destroying itself. In our worship service this past Wednesday, we read the psalm appointed for the day, which describes the true measure of a leader—one who ‘saves the lives of those who are in need’ and ‘redeems their lives from oppression and violence’ (Psalm 72.13,14).

“the true measure of a leader—one who ‘saves the lives of those who are in need’ and ‘redeems their lives from oppression and violence’ “

Psalm 72.13,14

Let Us Be The Ones Who Join The Work To Redeem Our World From Oppression And Violence

As we close our Advent and Christmas season, a time that we have studied and prayed together, let us not put aside the truth of Christmas like so many decorations to be un-hung or ornaments to be packed away until next year. Let us not only remember God’s call to change our hearts and our lives, as John proclaims at the beginning of Advent, but let us find the strength together to live in such a way each day. Let us not lose the eyes that have come to see that Christ comes to us not once, not twice, but every day—in the guise of the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. Let us ‘save the lives of those in need.’ Let us be the ones who join the work to redeem our world from oppression and violence. And let us never forget that this light of love and liberation still shines in a darkness that can neither overwhelm nor overcome it. 

1st Sunday of Advent – November 29

Author: Chad Hyatt

Mark 13:24-37

Reflection: v. 34, ‘giving each one a job to do’

Bet you never thought you would live through an apocalypse, did you? Welcome to 2020, y’all. From the perspective of the church calendar, Advent kicks off a new year. And it happens while we’re still trudging our way through the old. It’s as if God’s people are invited to become divinely out-of-synch. The realities that have come surging over the banks—a global pandemic, persisting racism, political polarization—won’t simply recede because the clock ticks midnight on New Year’s Eve. Things will only change because we choose to change them. And that’s God’s subversive invitation to us.

At a time when so many of our churches have chosen—for sound public health reasons—to close the doors on traditional worship, might we imagine worship more broadly? What if worship was a little more Isaiah 58—a down-to-earth practice where we empower and embody more just and inclusive communities that could transcend the divisions that beset us? That would mean literally making room for those who cannot shelter-in-place because they have no place to shelter. It would mean creatively organizing our congregations to share food, clothing, running water, and rental assistance—things we should have already been doing, if we’re honest. Now is the time to make a new time for our world. Disruption of old patterns can embolden new ways of being together. But we can’t limit our creative vision to fashioning online content.

The Advent Event itself shows us the way: God comes to us as a poor and homeless child who quickly becomes a refugee on the run with his parents. Is this not where we can still find God at work? I believe with everything within me it is. God is always to be found, graciously at work on the margins, close to suffering, in the broken places. We must creatively reimagine church as a liberating, grassroots community that makes sharing our bread with our hungry neighbors as essential to true and vital worship as sharing the bread of the Eucharist with one another. A new Advent is upon us. Let us fearlessly embrace it.

Prayer God of Advent, help us to see in our troubled times that now is always your liberating time. May our broken status-quo lead us to reorder our worship as justice for our neighbors.