My friends, the Christian Church universal follows the “beat of its own drummer,” as it were, each year beginning the Church Year, not in conjunction with culture, on January 1st or as those interested mainly with monetary issues, on October 1st, but following their own timetable. Each and every year, for the Christian, begins and ends with our brother, Jesus, the Christ.
Advent, that wonderful, four-week period, give or take some days, leading up to Christmas, is intended to be a time of “expectant waiting.” And, we might ask, what are we, as Jesus’ followers waiting for? The simple answer is, for Jesus to come more fully into our lives. In reality though, it could be said that “Jesus is already here!” And with that thought in mind, perhaps a better word might be, “remembrance.” We are “expectantly awaiting” that special season of joy wherein we “remember again” how much our God has loved us by choosing, as Creator, to come and live for awhile in the person of Jesus, among the “created.”
We might ponder during these 4 weeks of Advent and this year we are given a full 4 weeks of time, (determined by when the 25th of December falls each year) just why our Creator God would choose to do such a thing.
The perhaps, simple and easier answer in the past, especially before Vatican II was to paint a picture of a sinful people, us, in need of redemption and because our sins were so great, only the Son of God could repair the human “damage” done—through his own death on the cross.
Prior to Vatican II, we all were taught to believe this erroneous “truth,” and also not to question the belief. With the Second Vatican Council, when good Pope John rightly said that the Church, “needed to open some windows, letting some fresh air in,” were we, the faithful, given permission to question the beliefs that for eons we were required to blindly believe. Because after all, we know that having a people all believing the same thing, no questions asked, are by those in charge, thought to be must easier to control. What ever happened to the notion of, “the Spirit is continually renewing the face of the earth?!”
Also, the idea of a Supreme Being choosing to come among us—not as a “vindictive despot,” but as a loving brother, friend—for no other reason than, to show us that we are loved, treasured and to show us the way, are concepts that at times, can be, without a doubt, “messy.” How are these, “in charge,” “to corral” folks in? And that is perhaps the point. The hierarchy of the Church are not called to “corral or force,” and punish when “their” wishes are not followed, but as the psalmist says today in number 25—to instruct, lead and teach—in other words, “the steadfast love and faithfulness of Adonai,” who simply wants to be in relationship, “friendship” with us.
The term, “Adonai,” if you are not familiar with it, is one of, “reverence” for God in the Greek, used in the Priests for Equality translation of the Scriptures that we use at All Are One. It is another way of saying, “lord” which they chose not to use as it indicates a top-down relationship which by much of New Testament Scripture seems to indicate that our God, in Jesus, doesn’t want.
The Church in its wisdom treats us in each new Church Year to one of the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. “Synoptic” simply means, much in all three is similar. The differences tend to show themselves due to the population that the book was primarily written for. In this Church Year, 2021-2022, we will be using Luke who was writing for the Gentiles—folks like us and it is thought that he never knew Jesus in his lifetime but learned of him through Paul.
The “Jesus” that he shows us will appear as a teacher—one with ethical wisdom—someone who is confident and serene in his teaching, interested in placing the virtues of “compassion and forgiveness” before the followers and encouraging their living out these virtues.
So the fact that Luke will be raising the concept of “ethical living,” the first reading from the prophet, Jeremiah, is fitting— “The land will be called, Our God is our justice.” Also, “I will raise up a branch of David who will do what is right and just.”
Additionally, Luke is the best of the three synoptic Gospels in sharing stories uplifting women. This is true from the first chapter where two women, Mary and Elizabeth have prominent roles to Anna, in the temple when Jesus is presented as a baby, to Mary of Magdala in the garden after the resurrection. For this reason, your pastor, along with other women in ministry, delight in this Gospel.
So, my friends, this season of Advent, just beginning, calls us to remember reflectively, the true reason for our brother Jesus coming among us—simply put, to show us that we are truly loved by our God, and to help us live our one, wonderful, human life in the best of ways—by watching how he did it.
The writer to the Thessalonians— Paul, says it like this: “May our Savior make you grow and overflow with love for one another and for all people—may Christ strengthen your hearts.”
From this it would seem confirmed that Jesus advocated more for a “heart” response than for one coming from the “head.” And as in all of my homilies, friends, I try to bring us back to the present—how are we to see these Scriptures in our day-to-day lives?
Luke’s Jesus seems to be calling us to “balance” in our lives—enjoy, but don’t get lost in over-indulgence. Additionally, we are to “pray always.” I would like to suggest that the “praying” called for here might be more about daily realizing that we are in the presence of our God, than about the recitation of words. And this “presence” that we should be aware of, is all around us, in all of created life. And when did our world need this kind of realization more?
There is a bit of apocalyptic writing in today’s Gospel—a topic that those in Jesus’ time were often mentally engaged in. I for one don’t think that kind of “mental engaging” is important if we rather, keep our eyes on doing what is right and good, just and loving.
May each of you be blessed with love, peace, and joy during these days of “expectant waiting.” May we each, always, hold the gratitude expressed at Thanksgiving time in our hearts for all that we have, and do all that we can for those who have less and struggle every day—some even, to eat.
Additionally, as we expectantly await Christmas, let us pray for our beloved country, so divided at present, to have an awakening to the fact that in order to survive in any meaningful way, we must BE for each other—listen to each other, and collectively find the ways toward justice for all. Amen? Amen!