Many people are concerned about the future under this current administration. The government has just stolen from hard working American people and given to the wealthy few. It makes sense that Advent feels more dark and foreboding this year.
I could no longer contain my frustration and deep sadness as I blurted out to our pastor, “How can this be happening? How am I supposed to love people who take from the poor and vulnerable and give to the wealthy?” I’m not sure he had an answer, but he did say, “God is doing something.” And to his credit, he humbly added, “I’m not sure what that something is, but I know God is doing something!” So, I wondered during my prayer time and I asked, “Where is your light Lord? What is the something you are doing?” And then I tried to listen. Two scripture texts came to mind. (Matthew 22:34-40 and Matthew 9:17) They may not seem related, but in an odd way they are.
“34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The second scripture is from Matthew 9:17 (It is also in Mark and Luke) “Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
This year, I’ve been blessed to participate in a wonderful online community of individuals on a journey through Advent. Many in this group have struggled with the same questions along their faith journey. Many have left their church and/or even their original faith, only to travel a new road or back home to the faith they originally started with.
The amazing thing about this particular community, is their determination to “love others” in the midst of the struggle. I read daily posts about loving their neighbors, helping in the community, struggling with grief, expressing their anger, frustrations, joys and sorrows. No one is judged or argued with. They simply love God and others.
It is messy and authentic and I suspect, very much like it was when the disciples walked with Jesus on the earth. In my mind, it is a good example of what the church was always meant to be before it was high jacked by religion.
The political leaning of this group is evident by their tongue in cheek tagline of “Make Advent Great Again.” For me, it has been a community where I have the freedom to struggle and wait in the dark wonder of the “something” my pastor suggested God is doing. All of this to say, today I hold a renewed sense of light in the darkness of Advent. As I write this, it is in fact, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. Tomorrow, the light will literally increase! How appropriate!
As a Christian, I wait in the darkness of Advent as a reminder of the waiting of Mary (and the world really!) for the birth of the Savior. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we can choose to see only the darkness around us, or we can wait in the dark womb of the “new thing” God is doing. We can wait in the unknowing “something” that God has already created.
The birth pains of “the new” are upon us! For too long, we have tried to DO church instead of BE church. My spiritual director reminds me often that the Kingdom of God is pressed right up against us! We are in fact, in the transition stage of birth! The church of our Savior is no longer comfortable with the safe, dark womb. The curch is moving from the dark womb into the light of new birth!
Another way of looking at this might be based on the Matthew 9 scripture referenced earlier. The church today is no longer able to fit into the old wineskin or the old way of doing things. The rich, dark new wine is being poured into new wineskins! Will we try to adjust our current way of “doing church” with a patch here or there, or will we embrace the new wine, the new “something” God is doing?
All around me I see people with love and compassion speaking up for the vulnerable and the poor. I see Americans passionately fighting to keep our democracy and freedom. And, I see the majority of American people, loving their neighbor! Of course there will always be people who have lost their light (or never had it in the first place) who will try to drag us down into the dark pit of despair, but all is not lost! I want to encourage you to look around with your eyes wide open. I believe you will see people in our country holding the Light of Hope and Love!
Are you ready for the new birth? I know I am! And much like a mother who has entered the transition stage of new birth, I am more than ready to bring this new child into the Light with Joy!!
May this Christmas be one of new light and joy as you focus on the Light of God more than you focus on the dark.