Advent, the season of hope. What is this hope?
Listening to the readings of the First Sunday of Advent (Isaiah 64:1-9, Mark 13: 24-37), the reader has to be struck with their utter strangeness. The call to YHWH to ‘come down’, to tear open the heavens. And in Mark the very thing: the expectation that the cosmos will burst into cataclysm.
These readings sound like the world we live in: where B52s carpet bombed in a previous generation, now unmanned Drones deliver remote controlled death. Cities are wiped out – as were Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And the hidden legacies of radiation from failed rectors seep unseen into tissue and bone.
When these readings are heard in church, what happens? Gone are the apocalyptic expectations which have Judge Jesus descending from the sky. Gone, too, is the urgent and radical expectation what the prophets name – a world transformed. Hope turns into mild hankerings for a quiet life, or a social policy that alters our living arrangements.
How will we reclaim the passion for the peace of God, the strong and demanding expectation that the living god acts and alters our world: ‘intrudes’, in language offensive to progressive ears? As the prophets were driven to declare against their predilections, are we not also to declare the message that the living God will alter all we know, all we are. That the planet will be healed. That the death we deliver will be confronted and broken. Aren’t we, with Jesus who staked everything on this, to stake all we have and are on him?
With the Yes to that, we must form communities of faith that are honest, where we confess to our neighbours in this community how alien all this is, and yet encourage one another to believe, and act, in the certainty that Jesus the Judge has claimed us at the cost of his life, and promises not to give up until all is renewed in his image.
What would Advent look like if we gathered like this, and ate bread and drank wine as the promise of new life for all?
30th November 2011