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 born

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.

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Photo provided by:
Johan van Parys

Found at

http://www.mary.org/who-we-are/art/basilica-saints#.WicWQLQ-fC8

9 thoughts on “RCL

  1. This is so super helpful – thank you. I was just having a conversation with my 15 yo because he said something about “the world ending…” I’m reading about the 1500’s right now, when so many people died from plague – I told him that humanity is surprisingly resilient. And so is the Holy Spirit, now that I think of it.

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  2. I am struggling with these texts a bit. Not because they aren’t all the things listed above, but because they are. I am feeling them in a very personal way this week and my desire is to make them communal since Isaiah wasn’t speaking to an individual but to a nation. Anyway, while I am sure I will not preach quite what I’ve written, I will preach the essence of it. So here it is, though it may be triggering for some because I talk about sexual abuse, harrassment, and the like. https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com/2017/12/05/prepare-the-way-for-peace/

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  3. I was struck by the start of the gospel: “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ…” What’s there is just the beginning and it’s still going; where are we on that path toward the end and what does us mean for us to be on that arc? I’m on jury duty today sitting in the assembly room with time to think and write; however, I live in Los Angeles and with 5 wildfires burning around us, I’m aware that the tone of what the congregation needs to hear could change between now and the weekend. Comfort may come forward as the greater need…

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    1. I too am sticking with Mark with a focus on
      “in the beginning” (this is just starting folks …)
      “good news” we need it now … we are in the wilderness … as much as ever
      “a messenger” (today we are bombarded by messages)
      Where do we find messages?”
      Where / why do we miss messages.”
      How are we messengers?

      Well … it all made sense first time through … will see tomorrow when I read fresh again!

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  4. How are you all addressing the declaration by the US of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? I almost certainly have dispensationalists in my congregation. Because I tend to shelter myself from certain media, I’m not sure what is out there that I need to counter – as a reformed pastor-theologian. For example, I have heard that there are folks who are celebrating that the second coming is imminent. I plan to address this using last week’s Gospel passage. This will be somewhat natural, as I often remind folks of “where we were last week in our study.” Please help. I never bring politics into the pulpit. On the other hand, I think folks need to know what the reformed position is, even if they don’t agree with it. I will bear in miind: “It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it….”

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