First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37

Advent’s familiar themes of waiting and hopeful expectation have a different ring this year.
“Waiting” works if you live in a world where you know that a little more patience generally would do you good. “Hopeful expectation” has a pleasant enough sound if your life is going reasonably well at the moment.

But how do these admonitions sound–“wait!” “be patient!”–in a context of violence and despair, of deprivation and gross inequality? What does “hopeful expectation” sound like, look like in places where justice has long been delayed, meaning, of course, that justice has been denied?

What if you’re sick of waiting?

What if your patience has run out?

What if you have no hope?

Is it possible that affluent churches in nice neighborhoods (or even churches of modest means in safe communities) often make of Advent an aesthetic: a carefully rendered “experience”–beautiful, tasteful, moving–while missing or at least masking its intimate, immediate connections to our messy, broken, violent world?

How do the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri–in all of their heart-breaking complexity–remind us that we are called to something more, invited to see that Advent is rooted in Israel’s and the early Christians’ longing for justice, for reconciliation, restoration, wholeness? And that this longing was not an in-the-meantime passive acceptance of the status quo but an active participation in the work of healing and hope?

In Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar, the mess that humans have made of their lives–personally, collectively–is met with the realization that everything is connected, that “quantum entanglement” names not only the behavior of subatomic particles but the nature of being human. (Is there something to the idea that, beyond our love of physics–relativity, singularity, black holes, worm holes, the fifth dimension–physics is ultimately about love?)

We tangle and are entangled.



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