This Advent, Let’s Go Down to the River to Pray

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Sunday’s Sermon (16 Dec 2012) Revisited:

This Advent, Let’s Go Down to the River to Pray

We hold on to the Light as we walk through shadows

The Gospel lesson for the Third Sunday of Advent sends us to the River Jordan to hear the desert preacher.  As it turns out, Jesus’ birth is not the only surprising birth na

If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday’s Sermon (16 Dec 2012) Revisited:

This Advent, Let’s Go Down to the River to Pray

We hold on to the Light as we walk through shadows

The Gospel lesson for the Third Sunday of Advent sends us to the River Jordan to hear the desert preacher.  As it turns out, Jesus’ birth is not the only surprising birth narrative of the season; Elizabeth and Zechariah, even though they were “getting along in years” have a son.  The scene for Sunday is him as an adult practicing his craft as a prophet.

The words from John the Baptizer may not go easily on a Christmas card, but they are important words for Advent; as it turns out, they are a word of liberation for this tender season of shocking shadows.  While not as austere as Lent, Advent is a set-aside time for preparation and anticipation.  The seasonal disciple is often covered in a flurry of holiday activities; as with many, the events in Newtown, CT, bring me back to a quiet center.  Through our tears, the story of a Holy Child reads differently this year.

John’s words may sound to us like a soapbox preacher standing on the street corner preaching to strangers, but this is not so.  He is a prophet preaching at the River Jordan; his location is a place of deep communal meaning, his words call us to remember who we are.  At the River’s edge, the people recall their sacred stories and remember the faith history they stand in.  They remember that their ancestors crossed the Red Sea to flee from the Egyptian empire; they remember that they wandered in the desert for 40 years.  And they remember that it was at this place that they crossed to form a new community of justice and shalom.  They crowds who go to hear John preach go to remember that they have forgotten.

John’s words are a type of “exhortation” that is actually beyond a scolding finger wag; it can be difficult for us to hear in our modern context.  But those who heard them would have felt more than condemned, they would have heard a compelling, even comforting word.  John’s words call them back to who they are and is rooted in sacred memory and identity as Children of God.  Rome is an occupier and oppressor and misshapes more than just their daily living; Rome has mutated their thoughts about who they are.  John is calling attention to the fact that something is radically wrong; he calls them to remember who they are and to begin rebuilding their communities of justice and shalom.

The horrific events in Newtown shock us into an awareness that something is radically wrong, not just in an individual or family, but in our society writ large. HOWEVER, we should be cautious about rushing to policies or partisan politics for security or solutions.  Now is NOT the time for conversations about national gun policy or even for vulnerable conversations about mental illness.  Those dialogues and debates will certainly come, but not yet.  These are days to be with each other in our grief; let us simply make our way to the River Jordan and weep, for we, too, have forgotten who we are and something is radically wrong.  Let us hold each other tenderly and wipe tears from each other’s eyes that we might see again our way to justice and shalom.

This year the way to the crèche crosses by the River.  Let us be sure to stop and hear the prophet and remember his call to sacred memory and identity.  If we do, perhaps only if we do, we will be able to hear the angels sing and know the jubilation of shepherds when we arrive at the manger.

Read more http://whereheartandmindmeet.ccuccatl.com/2012/12/17/this-advent-lets-go-down-to-the-river-to-pray/

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