Are you entering into the apocalyptic spirit of things? The apocalypse, the end of the world as we know it. Its interesting to me that Christmas is our preview of the apocalypse, because most portrayals of the 2nd coming of Christ bear little resemblance to Christmas.
Christmas, however, is indeed apocalyptic precisely because it completely upends the power structures of the time. It changes how we understand the world itself. John the Baptist says it as a warning in Mark 1, Isaiah says it as a comfort, Peter says it as an immediacy of time. The world will be changed, and ultimately it will be changed by acts of service and kindness. If Jesus is any clue, then the poor and the foreign, the disabled and the women will be the key.
Every valley shall be exalted, And every hill shall be made low. This is a justice text, an empowering text, a text about how the world will be evened out. The physical manifestations of justice are ones to look forward to.
One of my favorite comments on the John the Baptist text in Mark 2 (I’m sorry to say I don’t remember who said it) was the John the Baptist should be included in our Nativity Scenes. He should be present, pointing to Jesus as he does from the womb on…I think this is a great point (and oft use it for the children’s message). Jesus is speaking of the apocalypse, the one that is present in the very paradox of the God-Christ-Child.
Then there is 2 Peter 3 which addresses the reality that we are on God’s time and not our. The fact that we have already been saved, but the kingdom is not yet manifest. We are in that instant of already, but not yet and it feels like forever, but to God it is but a moment. My favorite image for this is the implosion of a building. If you see an implosion there is the boom of the explosive and then a forever moment of waiting, and then, finally, the building collapses in on itself. This is where we are, evil has been obliterated, but the infrastructures of evil have not yet imploded.
Isaiah speaks to the comfort that the debt has already been paid. This was in terms of Israel in exile, but the point is that the work is halfway done and our job is to make ready the celebration. This is where we are now, the debt has already been paid by Christ, so we are preparing the way for his return by practicing Christmas.
Psalm 85 tells of peace, Shalom, and defines it. This peace, will be the glory of God, and odd concept for us humans. However, the Lord’s path is filled with all of these intangible but essential ideas: love, faithfulness, righteousness and finally peace. Not so different from our advent candles.
As we look at the 2nd week of Advent the candle of peace/love seems to be odd (everyone does the order a little differently). But then again, I was not taught about Advent candles in seminary, nor probably were most pastors. However, in the United States Advent candles are part and parcel of the preparations. The candles help us to think out these visions of the kingdom life.
As we look to the candle liturgies, love and peace are both abundant in the apocalyse because the goal of apocalypse is restoration. Restoration, Shalom, peace, wholeness, love. All of these ideas are an essential part of Christmas. Ideas that we humans have to practice to hold onto, because when we practice Advent and Christmas we are not only practicing waiting for Christmas but also practicing the apocalypse itself, the shake down of power, the chaos that causes, and the servant-acts and kindness that will be instilled in the kingdom that is to come.
I have no doubt that the very first Christmas was terrifying. The concept that God was going to love us into obedience was completely outside of our brains. The idea that a tiny baby would hold all of the power, was laughable. Finally, of course, the very act of Jesus’s eventual sacrifice his very self was inconceivable.
Yet Jesus was conceived,
and as Psalm 85, he changed the world
by speaking Peace to us.
And that is well worth the wait, and the practice.
Where are you heading?
Are you focusing on Preparing?
Is the message of comfort one you long to hear?
Are you looking for a shepherd? Feeling Sheepish this week?
How about a word of peace, can you feel that peace?
What does Resoration/Apocalypse look like to you? Are they the same or different?
Are you doing Advent Candles?
Tell us about where you are in your preparation for worship.