Reflection by Gene Schlesinger, based off of his sermon from Advent 1 (Nov 30, 2014)
This week we begin the season of Advent, which is a confusing time for many of us, who are formed to think of the “Christmas Season” as beginning after sometime around Halloween (if we’re a real stickler for tradition, it begins after Thanksgiving). The Christian Season of Advent, though, tells us that the Christmas Season is not yet here. It’s not quite time for celebration yet. That will come, and we will give the Twelve Days of Christmas their due. But for now, it’s time for us to wait, to repent, to prepare, and to anticipate. Advent teaches us to look forward not just to Christmas and the joy of salvation’s birth in the person of Jesus Christ, but also to look forward to the consummation of all things, when he returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. Advent anticipates the time when all that is wrong with the world, and all that is wrong with us, shall be put to rights. But by the very fact that it is a season of anticipation, it tells us that the time is not yet here. All shall be well, but it is not yet.
And waiting is hard. In fact, as that great theologian, Tom Petty, said, it’s the hardest part. We get a glimpse of this in Sunday’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah (Isaiah 64.1-9). The prophet cries out: O, that you would rend the heavens and come down! It is the cry of one who is dissatisfied with the status quo; one who recognizes that there is much wrong with the world and that the fixing of what’s wrong is beyond us. We can make progress. We can develop and advance, but ultimately we cannot accomplish what the world needs. Eventually we need God to rend the heavens and come down. We need God to establish justice and set things to right. Advent is about building a longing for that. Advent is about seeing all that is wrong with the world and calling out for Christ’s return so that finally all manner of things shall be most well.
Yet, if we’re honest, we’re not ready for God to rend the heavens, come down, and put things to right. Advent is a time for us to realize that we’re not ready, and to start getting ready. Because the cry for justice may wind up bringing us more than we bargained for. It may turn out that God wants to do something about us as well. Advent is a time to shake ourselves awake and ask: how far gone am I? Where have I been drifting, without even realizing it? Advent is a wake up call, and an opportunity to get back on track.
And the wonderful news is that it’s never too late to do this. Listen to what Isaiah says, “Yet you are our Father. You are the Potter, and we are the clay.” God remains committed to us, no matter how far we’ve gone. He will always receive us, always welcome us back because he has given his Son so that we might be redeemed. He is the Potter, and Advent means aligning ourselves with the coming Kingdom, becoming pliable in the hands of the potter so that he can remold us and refashion us into the shape we were meant to be.
So this Advent, take time to ask where God might want to redirect and rework you, and let him slowly reshape you until you resemble his Son, for whose return we wait.