Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Advent Parable

Advent is just about over, but there is still time to start the practice of blogging on each liturgical season, during that season. So here goes the first installment of an occasional series. . .

Last Sunday evening, on the Third Sunday of Advent, a student of mine was driving with friends to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Canton for a special service of Advent meditations, music, and visual art. As the sun was setting, the weather was turning cold and nasty, with bitter Arctic winds and snow swirling around. As the guys drove down Market Avenue, a major four-lane thoroughfare, they saw an older woman walking against the flow of traffic, scuffling along the gutter of the street with her walker, nearly sliding into the path of oncoming cars. She wasn't wearing a coat or decent shoes. She was clearly disoriented. 

So, God bless them, they stopped their car and returned her to the nursing home from which she had wandered. As a result, they arrived at the Advent service quite late, unable to enjoy it fully.

One of the young men was deeply upset, overcome with the injustice of a system that discards the elderly and cares little for them. This particular woman was obviously overlooked at this particular nursing home, which is not exactly posh -- a forgotten woman in a forgotten place. As the student sat in the Advent service, he was crying in frustration. He confessed that he wasn't able to focus on the service because he was so overcome with the injustice of it all.

But he had had just lived through an Advent parable. 

After all, this is the season in which we cry "come, Lord Jesus, come." The tears of that young man were properly Advent tears--the tears of a season in which we lament the injustice and oppression of this world while yearning for justice and liberation.

On this Third Sunday of Advent, Isaiah's prophetic vision was read out loud in many churches around the world:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert (Isaiah 35:5-6). 
Advent is the time when we recall that we are longing, like Isaiah and Mary, for God to redeem his people, to put things right, to rescue us, to heal us, to bring us back to Zion, to bring justice, and to liberate us all from the yoke of spiritual, physical, social, political, or economic oppression. We say "come, Lord Jesus, come," because we hope he will return to make things right.

But in the meantime, we live in a fallen world that often lacks this healing. In between Christ's first and second Advents, between the "already" of the Kingdom and the "not yet," we wait. 
Wait for the Lord, whose day is near
Wait for the Lord 
Be strong, take heart.
These words from one of my favorite Taize songs remind us to wait patiently for the Lord, even while we, like my student, impatiently long for God to reign on earth as He already does in Heaven. 

Marantha. Come, Lord.

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