It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Except…

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year….”, except of course when you turn on the news, or read the newspaper, or scan your Facebook or Twitter feeds, at which point it is the continued story of violence, fear, tragedy, racism, hatred, homophobia, xenophobia, and every other “-ism” and “phobia”. I read the Hebrew scripture reading for the first Sunday of Advent from the prophet Jeremiah: “The days are surely coming, says God, when I will fulfill the promise I made…” (Jeremiah 33:14a) and I ask “when?” Or at my most sarcastic moments I roll my eyes and mutter ‘yeah right”, or in my anger and pain I cry out like the psalmist “How long, O Lord?” We live in a time of suffering, and turmoil and dis-ease. At times it is hard to see the hope out there…but it is there. It’s there in the volunteers who show up day after day at Next Door Milwaukee to read to hundreds of preschoolers eager to learn. Hope is present in the protesters who are demanding justice for those harmed by police brutality. Hope is present in the people across Europe who are finding ways to open their hearts and their homes to take in Syrian refugees desperate to find safety. Hope is present in Madison where new initiatives are helping homeless veterans find permanent housing. Hope is there in those who work tirelessly at food pantries and homeless shelters, and children’s homes. Hope is found as more people make their voices heard and insist that corporations begin paying their employees a living wage that will put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Advent means “coming” it’s a time of anticipation, but it is Frederik Buechner’s description of Advent as “an invasion of holiness” that sparks my imagination. An “invasion of holiness” is what is needed right now. The days are coming, says the LORD, when the promises will be fulfilled, when the hungry will be fed, when the sick will be healed, when the homeless housed, the incarcerated will be freed, the broken made whole. And it is us, the people of God, the disciples of Jesus Christ, that are the ones to usher in this new day. To be the “righteous ones” of God, we must care for the least of these, Jesus said. 2,000 years ago a poor family of refugees fled from Israel into Egypt to escape a violent massacre of an entire generation. That family was Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Today we find ourselves facing similar tragedies: millions fleeing violence in their homelands, an entire generation of young people growing up with few opportunities for economic advancement as they are exploited by the wealthy elite.

A new day is dawning, the kingdom of God is at hand, it is up to us to be alert, to pray, to trust in God, and follow in the paths of Christ, that we may stand firm and serve and celebrate in the kingdom of our God. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. As we await the coming of our Savior into this world, let us show love for God and love for our neighbor. As Mother Teresa wrote, “To show great love for God and our neighbor we need not do great things. It is how much love we put in the doing that makes our offering something beautiful for God.” In all of our preparations and celebrations this Advent and Christmas season, may we remember to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12), so that we are ready to celebrate and share the good news of this holiday season…Emmanuel, God with Us, is coming into the world, and we need not be afraid, for God is with us, God’s love encircles us, and it all is going to be alright.

May God’s love be an ever-present gift to you and yours this season and always,

Pastor Tara