This is what Anglican Failure looks like.
It is basically Christmas, if you’re not in the way of observing Advent, which I barely am this year, having managed not even to lay my hand on Advent candles or anything.* Of course, I know this makes me a bad person. What with the internet to keep me amused, Amazon to deliver my presents, and children to clean my house, I barely have anything to do with myself. I might as well be sitting around eating all the candy out of a stray Advent calendar.
Into this world of peace and goodwill comes the weird Peloton Bike Lady. I won’t lie, I somehow got totally wrapped up this latest internet wonder. Basically, a kind but clueless husband gives his weirdly stressed and anxious wife a Peloton Bike for Christmas, the use of which she documents for a year by way of her phone. Here is a pretty good description:
The actress is pretty slim and fit already, so we’re left wondering why she or her husband would think she needs this. She seems bizarrely nervous or frightened as she live-streams her first day using the Peloton. (I joked I had seen hostage tapes that looked more comfortable.) She continues to record videos about how she’s using it “five days in a row, can you believe it?” Again, she looks really fit. Why would using an exercise bike for five straight days be such a shock? Then the couple sits on the couch and watches her video diary on their big-screen television. “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she declares, looking pretty much the same she did in the commercial’s opening scene.
What does any of this have to do with Jesus? Well, I guess probably it doesn’t except that the Old Testament lesson for this morning is that comforting eschatological one where the wolf and the bear and the lion laze around with the baby, who puts his chubby hand into the nest of the adder, and suffers no ill-effects. “They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea,” explains God, just in case you didn’t get it.
This must be referring to the true meaning of the perfect Hallmark Christmas—that special moment when everything magically pulls itself together in your favor. The cosmos shall so align that some deep peace takes place in the hearts and minds of each already beautifully thin person. The family gathers merrily around the tree as the concluding notes of the generic music begin to fade, the clean child who hasn’t ground cookies into the white carpet of the grandmother laughs and claps her hands, the sisters don’t stand crossly in the kitchen over a sink full of dishes, angry that nobody is helping them clean up, the sons-in-law aren’t pushing back the anxiety of work over a beer and that lost consciousness of sports consumption.
A loved one who knows me better than I know myself will give me some kind of magical gadget or device that takes away all my sorrow. Or, if I have yet to acquire a loved one who even “gets me,” the cosmos will bring someone along—someone who will banish all my loneliness. All the difficulties of life promise to be smoothed away and I am more than prepared to believe them.
I ramp up my feelings of hope and wonder for the whole month, only to discover, on Dec. 26, that true love’s kiss didn’t materialize (or wasn’t as amazing as I had expected) and that the stupid Peloton bike has to be ridden if I really want to be thinner. I’m not even blond am I? I pick up the pieces of my disappointment and transfer them to January 1st when I will try again for the kiss and convince myself to maybe get on the stupid bike.
Isn’t that what the vision of Isaiah is all about? Why hasn’t it come about? Is it some kind of useless promise? Look, we’re all going to get along! Except that we still don’t, and I’m still faced with this wretched bike.
But the vision is nestled—though it’s so easy to miss it—inside the strange description of a person, or is it a plant? A root that bears fruit. A person full of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. A righteous judge who strikes the earth, who, by his mere word, slays the wicked. The day he arrives is a signal to the nations, a sign of things to come.
When he finally does appear, walking into the murky waters of the Jordan River, greeting his eccentric preaching cousin, the last thing that anyone feels is peace. Except, well, there he is, that perfect baby grown into a man, reaching his outstretched hand into the depths of Sheol, pulling up that wicked enemy, the serpent, and crushing him.
So, really, it doesn’t matter if you get thinner in 2020. Nor should any of us expect that all our relationships will sort themselves out to perfection, nor that all of our dreams will come true. Unless the dream, the hope, is for a sure and settled peace, a comfort that reaches into a long, bright eternity with that person who did it all so that I don’t even have to.
Pass me a cupcake. I’m here for the long-haul.
*I’m kidding. As a proper Anglican I will never concede the observance of Advent, candles or no candles. I’m just trying to make concessions for the shocking secularism of other kinds of people.