Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What we're not saying

Perhaps a way in which the Episcopal Church particularly distinguishes itself from its other more protestant neighbors is during and by way of this season of Advent.

While the countless versions of "Little Drummer Boy"  --  Even Jimi Hendrix recorded one!  --   accompany our shopping and Andy Williams, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby visit us like the ghosts of Christmases past making sure our hearts are mellow even though just about everything else in our lives is ratcheting up our anxieties, "us Anglicans" are still chanting through our most sincere invitation of the season, "O come, o come Emmanuel."

We've yet to turn beyond hymn 76.  We've yet to hear of lowing cattle, watching shepherds, signatory stars or Roman taxes and census takings.  Instead we are working, yes working our way into an appreciation for the incarnation of God and its purpose, an interplay of hope and memory, of judgement and redemption, of looming darkness and promised light.

We are not just practicing delayed gratification, but much of what we are NOT saying is as important as what others are already saying.   To do as so many around us do and to superimpose our pleasure and fun into the days and months before His arrival, to confuse his coming with our deserving a reward for good behavior, or to think that our generosity and giving are all the world needs to be the place that God intended is nearly to insure that we will miss the meaning of Christmas.

We need at least to be willing to acknowledge what we are doing in lieu of what we are not saying.   There are plenty even among us who do not understand that our preparation is to be a kind of vigilance, an honest expectation that will finally amplify the light as much as focus our gaze on the one from whom the light shines.

Yes, I am an Advent Snob but I am just as much an Incarnation snob.  God will save us by "being born of the virgin Mary, his mother."  I want us to be ready for a human to be born and become the way in which God makes a difference in the world.

Consider this, that for God to make the difference and to intervene in the course of human affairs any other way would be to violate our free will.  Only as the incarnate one can God set right the course of history and do so in a way that does not render us as mere puppets, objects to be manipulated, or cosmological nuisances to be endured and replaced with improved models.

Using the standard, culturally driven reverse projections of the season which for retail purposes begin earlier each year -- "Aren't the 12 days of Christmas the last ones we have to finish shopping?" --  or pro-actively celebrating so that we can take our trees down December 26 -- I've seen them in the gutter on Christmas day -- or praying for a chill in the air so we can wear our ugly contest sweaters one more time -- the gift of irony? -- are not the "things we need to say" maybe especially right now.  Whether we do those things or not there is still so much more for which to prepare.

Please understand, we are not saying anything bad about these preemptions, just that their timing is off.  In Advent we wait and watch, we warn and exhort, we listen and magnify so that when Christmas season begins we can focus on the one who makes the world enlightened and into the place where God is with us. 

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