Friday, December 11, 2009

Second week of Advent

Advent is commonly known as the season for waiting. We commemorate the waiting of the Hebrews for their Messiah. We acknowledge our waiting for the second coming. We revel in the waiting for Christmas, and the joy and excitement that it brings.

Waiting, however, is generally no fun.

Waiting conjures images of one standing in line with a letter to be mailed at the post office, a deposit to be made at the bank, or God forbid, the interminable line to get your drivers license renewed. Waiting emphasizes our inability to do anything as we sit at the mercy of the worker or teller or clerk. In that aspect, waiting can offer us something. It does remind us that we do not have absolute control over what will come. Though it is good from time to time to be reminded of our powerlessness, waiting is too passive a term for this season.

When we welcome company into our home, we do not simply wait, we prepare. There are dishes to be washed, carpets to be vacuumed, pillows to be set out and food to be cooked. It is an active time, especially when the guest is an honored one. Though advent is often said to be a time to slow down, I think it would perhaps be better not to slow down, but rather to change our focus. As the world around us turns to more goods, more services, more consumption, we should be just as active, with our efforts towards bringing the Kingdom to earth. We are called to be even quicker to love, and to make even more haste to be kind. We should take more time to appreciate our family and friends, and to give thanks for all the blessings we have received. The way we best prepare for the Kingdom is to work to bring it about here on earth. And if we are truly praying for “Thy will to be done on earth as it is in heaven,” then we should be focusing our salvation in this life, rather than just using salvation as the carrot to the stick of eternal damnation

Unlike many denominations, we in the Episcopal Church seem to talk very little about “Salvation.” It seems a very icky and overly evangelical term to many of us, especially those who grew up in the South being asked about “their personal Lord and Savior” often enough to make even the Archbishop of Canterbury question whether there was a just and loving God. The connotations that come with that word are often uncomfortable enough to keep us from openly addressing it as an issue. This is something that needs to be addressed and the Advent season is the perfect time to do so. While we are spending our time preparing (not waiting!) we should be working towards making ourselves whole, and living more fully into the Great Commandment.

Loving our neighbors, and serving those less than us bring us closer to God, and thus closer to salvation, to wholeness of soul. Our goal needs to be to try our best to get it right today, here, now. It is a choice we have to make, to live into that relationship. We can’t just wait until we croak and then let God do all the work. We need to be doing our best to live and grow in that relationship here and now, today, not tomorrow or next week or next month. By working on the fullness of our relationship with God, and our relationships with each other, we do real work towards our wholeness and therefore our salvation. More importantly, it gives us a chance to prepare ourselves for the Kingdom, both in this life and the next. And that is what advent should be all about.

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