Advent 1

“What Are You Waiting For?” Susan Ryder
On this first Sunday of the new church year, we begin a series of Advent Reflections, this week focusing on the question, “What are we waiting for?” Or more to the point, what are we hoping, yearning, and longing for during this season of Advent? Think about that question as I share some readings and a few remarks.

Jeremiah 33:14-16
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Isaiah 2:1-5
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Rumi
I said: what about my eyes?
God said: Keep them on the road.
I said: what about my passion?
God said: Keep it burning.
I said: what about my heart?
God said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: pain and sorrow?
He said: ..stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

NYPD Cop Buys Shoes for Homeless Man (from todaynews.today.com)
Character is what you do when no one is watching. But a stranger was watching New York Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo when he decided to buy a barefoot homeless man a pair of new boots on a cold night last month. “The two things that really stuck out in my mind that night was just how cold it was and that this was the most polite gentleman I ever met, and I knew I had to help him,” DePrimo, 25, said, recalling the night of Nov. 14, when he encountered an unidentified, shoeless man on the sidewalk on Seventh Avenue near 44th Street. Unbeknownst to DePrimo, a nearby tourist snapped a picture of the random act of kindness — and the photo quickly went viral.

“I knew what I was looking at,” said Jennifer Foster, who was visiting Times Square from Arizona. The moment reminded her of a similar act by her father, a 32-year veteran of the Phoenix police department, and she quickly grabbed her phone. “I knew it was remarkable,” she said. Foster sent the photo to the New York Police Department, which posted the snapshot to its Facebook page and quickly picked up more than 430,000 likes. Mentions of the photo also started trending heavily on Twitter.

DePrimo was on patrol the night of Nov. 14, when he spoke to the homeless man. He then went inside a nearby shoe store to purchase some socks and boots. “I worked in the city for about 10 years and no one’s really taken that sort of initiative,” said Jose Cano, a store employee who gave DePrimo a discount on the pair of waterproof winter boots. The shoes ended up costing $75. “I really didn’t think about the money,” DePrimo told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie. “I said, I don’t care what the price is. We just got to help him out.” He returned to the man, knelt down and put the footwear on him. “He smiled from ear to ear,” DePrimo said. “It was like you gave him a million dollars.” The officer asked the man if he wanted a cup of coffee, but he graciously declined and went on his way.”I didn’t think anything of it,” DePrimo said of his generosity.

REFLECTION
Ted Jennings, Chicago Theological Seminary professor and Methodist minister, says that the season of Advent is the chance we have to get in touch with what we deeply yearn for and do not yet have – a time for us not to take present reality or what is actual as a given, but rather to awaken that “wild, crazy desire, or yearning for that which is impossible. Advent is a time to take advantage of the rare opportunity we have to be surprised, astonished by the coming of that which far exceeds what is possible.” I love that description of Advent so much I’ll share it again – awakening that wild crazy desire, or yearning for that which is impossible. Advent is a time to take advantage of the rare opportunity we have to be surprised, astonished by the coming of that which far exceeds what is possible.”

I’ve been pondering what I deeply yearn for during this Advent. Until Wednesday night what I really wanted was to win the lottery – but then someone else won my half billion dollars! But as much as many of us wanted to win the lottery, that’s not what I am talking about here. I’m talking about waiting for the kinds of things Jennings refers to as those which seem impossible. For instance, the situations referenced in the passages from Jeremiah and Isaiah, both of which come from a time when Jewish people were experiencing crisis and persecution, and from whom we hear a voice of hope and promise being offered to a broken people living in exile after being conquered by foreign enemies. The Israelites were being encouraged to continue walking in the light of the Lord despite their desperate circumstances – something that would not be easy, and would require their patience and trust. But as Rumi wisely wrote, our wounds are the very place the Light can enter us, shining through our brokenness and the cracks we all have. And so in spite of and in fact because of their dire circumstances, they were called to put aside their fears, be courageous in the midst of the reality of their exile, and not to lose hope that God would ultimately prevail, justice would reign, and their suffering would be redeemed as they continued to walk in the light of the Lord. Talk about a yearning that must have seemed impossible! We may not be in exile like the Israelites, but individually and globally we are hurting and in need of a wild and crazy impossibility to become reality. During Advent we are invited to recognize and name those deep yearnings we have for ourselves and the rest of creation.

I like the practice of some preachers who repeat a phrase over and over throughout a sermon. In the Jeremiah text “the days are surely coming” begs to be repeated. Take a moment and write that phrase on the front of your bulletin: “The days are surely coming.” And then take a moment to write your crazy desire for that which seems impossible as we begin our Advent journey together. What are you longing for this Advent season? What do yearn for that we do not yet have? Just write one thing for now so that everyone who wants to will have a chance to share. We’ll pass the microphone around the room and invite those who would like to share what you wrote to do so. You can also pass the microphone along.

I’ll start us off: The days are surely coming when stories like the one about Officer DiPrimo buying shoes for a homeless man will become the norm, and no longer newsworthy.

The days are surely coming.  Yes, they are.  You can count on it.

Comments

  1. The days are surely coming when we all will want the same for others that we want for ourselves.

  2. The days are surely coming when compassion will replace judgment as the default response to that which seems unacceptable.

  3. Sandy Holthaus says

    The days are surely coming…all children around the world will have nice mom & dads so they can be happy.
    Sandy from San Diego

  4. The days are surely coming when there will be no fear.

  5. The days are surely coming that will break through the barriers to the heart.

  6. Dick Watts says

    The days are surely coming when we shall sit around the table with people who make us uneasy, and we shall enjoy each other’s company.

  7. The days are surely coming for justice to reign in our country, in our hemisphere, and in our world.

  8. Steve Kirkwood says

    The days are surely coming when the economy will improve and there will be zero unemployment.

  9. Laurel Sedgwick says

    The days are surely coming when politicians will base their decisions on what is right and wise, not on what will gain them the most power, wealth, and popularity.

  10. Heidi Bowman says

    The days are surely coming when low-cost or no-cost spay-neuter is the norm and when every kid has a parent or parent figure who is crazy about him or her.