I’ve spent every year of my life in a place where the coming of Advent also means the coming of winter’s snows. Usually not the first snow of the year, but early enough in the season to still be fresh, exciting, new. As a child, such serious snowfall came with the eager anticipation of the first snow day of the year, which, mixed with the decorations and colorful lights and the countdown to Christmas construction-paper chain that hung in our kitchen, made for an exciting time indeed.
First Sunday of Advent (Cycle C)
Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
We haven’t had much snow in my corner of Minnesota so far this year. And while many of my fellow Minnesotans are quite fine with this fact, I am ready. I’ve been longing for that crisp, fresh, newness. I’m longing for the increased experience of warmth found in watching snow fall through the many windows of my home.
I’m longing for what’s next.
Advent of course marks the beginning of a new church year. Everything is new again and our sanctuaries are filled not only with Advent wreaths and familiar hymns, but with pageant practicing, groups going caroling, food and gifts for needy families gathering.
Here we go again. Waiting for the coming of Jesus, waiting for the word made flesh to dwell among us. Longing for all that the incarnation will mean, while at the same time remembering all that it has already meant for all of us. Indeed, we know how the story goes, and how it ends. And yet, we long, we achingly long for Jesus to come.
In addition to the first Sunday of Advent, this weekend also marks the annual observance of World AIDS Day. On December 1 of each year, we pause to remember those who have died and all those who live each day with HIV and AIDS. In the late 1990s I served as a chaplain in a hospice for those nearing the end of their journey living with AIDS. Those I encountered were also longing, longing for healing, for hope, for a miracle that would extend their time among the living. Some had been shunned by their parents and partners and longed for acceptance. Most felt estranged from religion and longed for answers to the big questions of life, death, and what was going to happen next.
There is good news for all of us who long for new beginnings and renewed hope. Such hope can indeed be found in the readings for this first Sunday of Advent.
Jeremiah tells us about a God who intervenes, promising that a branch will emerge from a dead stump, a ruler who will govern with justice and righteousness. Those on the margins, those experiencing hardship, oppression, and persecution can have hope, hope that it will get better, that their current situation isn’t permanent. God will redeem and save them.
Paul writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians of the hope we long for during this season, that we might increase and abound in love, and be strengthened in the days ahead as we await the coming of our Savior.
This week’s text from Luke shakes us up a bit. It is not about joyous anticipation or eager expectation—the things we usually associate with Advent. Instead it is about end times, natural disasters, cosmic upheaval. It is unsettling, gruesome, and frightening.
We are called on now, as always to be awake and aware of both what is now, and what it is that we long for. Not even “the worries of this life” should distract us from what is really important, our coming salvation.
That doesn’t mean we ignore all that is happening around us. That doesn’t mean we don’t speak out as refugee children and families are greeted at our border with tear gas. That doesn’t mean we don’t visit and care for those living with life-threatening illnesses, or stop caring for the elderly. Nor does it mean that we stop seeking common ground and reconciliation in our broken world.
Indeed, that is how we express our faithfulness, and tend to our longings. We stand up, we raise our heads, we seek justice and we work for peace.
May this Advent season be a time to prepare, a time to reflect, and a time to share with each other in community all that we long for.
Signup to receive these weekly lectionary reflections via email by clicking here.