menu

A Sober Advent

Our hope is to repent, as the John the Baptist cries, and turn toward the light of God amid all the temptations to live by fear, anxiety, and self-interest. Darkness is good; it is the time of growth and rest, and we would do well not to demonize darkness during Advent. Such demonization has been religiously sanctioned in identifying all dark things, including people of color, with evil. Amid the busyness of the Christmas season, repentance is truly countercultural insofar as the Christmas revels of consumption often prevent us from experiencing Christ in the day to day. Gifting is good, but our Advent and Christmas calling is not consumerism but loving appreciation and generosity.

In the waning days of Advent, there is the glimmer of Christmas on the horizon. But, even here, the coming of Christmas involves holding onto a tenuous hope. This year's readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent focus on Joseph's ambivalence. Somehow, Mary is pregnant and Joseph is not the father! Joseph plans to do the "right" thing from his ethical perspective, but God leads him in a different direction through a world-transforming dream. When Joseph "wakes up" from sleep, he repents his previous decision, turns around, and takes Mary as his wife.

Even the embodiment hope of the ages -- the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us -- rests on a tenuous hope. God's power in birthing the Christ-child is achieved through a dream and not overpowering sovereignty. God rules with vision not compulsion.

The hope of Advent is that we, like Mary and Joseph, will say "yes" to God's invitation to transformed living and stay awake to God's call in our time to be awakened and aware partners in healing the earth.

Return every Wednesday for a new column from Spiritual Practices for Preaching, a new feature at the Patheos Preachers Portal.

11/23/2010 5:00:00 AM