By: Bob Kolatorowicz
Sunday, November 27, 2016
We know all about time. Not enough time. Too much time. How time, together with the tide, waits for no one.
We’ve come to prefer our time sequential and measured. We have found uses for nanoseconds as well as millennia. Measured time allows us to be precise. Jimmy Butler and Dwayne Wade perform in a 24 second world. You and I have to catch “the 5:24.”
We wear it on our wrists. We hang it on our walls. But time doesn’t stand still. Time marches on! We know all about time.
The season of Advent presupposes a different sense of time. Unlike the familiar seasons of the solar year, Advent is a product of the religious imagination. Advent invites us into less ordinary but more poetic and perhaps, more meaningful rhythms of time. Calendars or clocks need not be consulted. The only timepiece that matters is a wreath with four candles.
Make no mistake. Giving ourselves over to the rhythms of Advent will not free us from the constraints of ordinary time keeping (only 28 shopping days ‘till Christmas!), but some things will be very different. Entering Advent, we will come to inhabit a season that blurs the boundaries between past events, future hopes, and the urgency of the present moment. Religious imagination will spin us into a season that is simultaneously already and not yet.
There is a sense of this already as we prepare for the Christmas feast when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered. There is also anticipation of the not yet as we look to the future when the fullness of God’s Love will be manifest to all, in all. But with great urgency, this blending of the already and the not yet reminds us that the present moment is so much more than a tick of the clock.
Advent is the echo of the angel Gabriel’s voice, proclaiming that the present moment is pregnant. And that we need to prepare, each one of us, somehow, in some way, to birth Christ into our world today.
Daylight shortens and the nights grow longer, but we have not been left alone in the dark. Our guide and birth coach for this season, this pregnancy, is the evangelist Matthew. As we gather together for the four Sundays of Advent, we will light a candle on the Advent wreath, each one in its turn, and listen to the Gospel of Matthew for the lessons of spiritual lamaze: stay awake; make way; believe; trust.
The First Sunday of Advent “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42)
Stay awake! Christ is coming. When? We can never be sure of the hour. But be alert. Look for signs. Listen to whispers. The Divine Presence is already within each one of us. Christ waits to be born. We gather around a wreath of evergreen and light the first of four candles. We light this first candle against the darkness of distraction and indifference.
The Second Sunday of Advent “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Matthew 3:3)
Make way! In this Sunday’s Gospel we will hear John the Baptist remind us that the way into our hearts can be blocked and diverted. To clear the pathway to our hearts requires preparation. We need to repent (literally to re-think) and let go of sin and all our unhealthy attachments to status, privilege, and presumption that have no place in the kingdom that Jesus proclaims. Let the good we do be evidence of our repentance. We will light a second candle against the darkness of conceit and narrow self-interest.
The Third Sunday of Advent “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)
Believe! But to whom or what shall we commit ourselves? What is the measure of the one who is to come? Empire? Fine clothes? Palaces? What is Jesus all about? Jesus tells the disciples of John the Baptist to report what they see. “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” We will light the third candle on our wreath against the darkness of false messiahs, false hopes and as a beacon of real hope.
The Fourth Sunday of Advent “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. (Matthew 1:20)
Trust! True, Joseph is a righteous man, but Mary’s story seems … unlikely. Then the angel of the Lord comes to disturb Joseph’s sleep with even more startling details. Remarkably, Joseph finds a way to put aside his fears. Perhaps he reaches deep into that place where his love for Mary abides. Perhaps he reaches deep into that place where his faith in God dwells. Secure in love and faith, he finds a way to trust. We will light the fourth candle on our wreath against the darkness of fear and insecurity.
Four lit candles, the circle of light will be complete. Once again, the sacred time of Advent will come to its end. You will have come to term. This Advent, what within you waits to be born?