This blog comes from a message I shared in my campus ministry last week.
It is based on these readings:
My preference is this translation, but the links above will suffice.
Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing
than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.
There’s no doubt we are in an odd time. Not only are we dealing with the aftermath of one of the most contentious election cycles in modern times, but as Christians we are entering into the liturgical season of Advent (which began on Sunday). No doubt one of the oddest pairings I’ve reflected about since my ordination over nine years ago. It’s weird and I don’t know what to make of it. It’s enough that we are still looking for answers as to what our future will hold—and specifically what it will mean as queer-identified folks. That is enough.
And yet, we are asked as people of faith to march on. We are asked to hold on to invisible comfort for the days ahead. We are asked to accomplish this task each time this season rolls around. See, as Christians we are invited to actively wait. “Oh, you want to know what’s going on?—Hold on, I’ll get back to you.” Tick Tock. Tick Tock. This is what I get when I look at the baby Jesus in the Nativity scene (technically rolled out too soon during the season of Advent if we want to be picky)—maybe that’s why we get candles—to assuage our natural impatience as humans. Yes, I look into the eyes of our Lord as a baby and I see, “not yet…just wait (perhaps with a twinkle in his eye).” Not always the most comforting, but definitely the most wise. See, we are lucky to be part of a tradition that celebrates and reveres an incarnational God who was with us on the planet (even if we weren’t there). The God we worship walked with us, felt pain, and sought to comfort us when we needed it most (and yes, challenged us when we were too comfortable). While baby Jesus doesn’t have all the answers, his birth was a sign that we were and are not alone—even in the darkest times (which is the backdrop of when he was born).
The passages I chose for today are paired together in the lectionary cycle…though out of season for today. I chose the passage from the Gospel of Matthew because it is giving me comfort during this point in history. This text comes from the Easter story when Jesus had risen from his grave and was telling the disciples what was next on the agenda (though I guarantee at least one of them was less than thrilled at this news). “I will be with you until the end of the world (or age depending on translation).”—this line from Scripture was framed and hung on the wall of my CPE Supervisor’s wall. (CPE = hospital chaplain training) It offered comfort for those of us visiting patients at all spectrums of life and death. There are no answers in a hospital setting—there are diagnoses, treatments, care, and so on—but no answers. As spiritual care providers, our task was simple—we asked them questions like, “How is it with you and God?” or “How is your spirit today?” As one on the receiving end of these questions, I never knew what I would hear—anger, grief, sadness, hope, or what. I listened. I listened as people told me their life stories. I listened to the patients whose families and friends had given up on them. I watched as death certificates were signed with no family present. I watched and listened.
This is what we are invited to do during Advent: watch and listen. This year is one where I will have to scream this to myself because I want to scream, cry, shout, and argue with people who are at peace with the transfer of leadership about to take place. Perhaps there is a place for this in the midst of watching and listening—perhaps this is the first step in paying attention to ushering in Christ consciousness—the old ways that no longer serve need to part ways in order for new life to appear. As one of my friends said, “We are experiencing the pangs of labor—screaming is part of the birth process.”
What I find fascinating is that the creation story we know so well is paired with this passage from Matthew—the Great Commission as it’s known. So the question is, “For what are we created?” We are created for great things and marvelous works. We are created for Sacraments and healing. We are created and not alone. What’s next? Living out the good news…lifting up the oppressed, welcoming the stranger, restoring and creating, healing, and connecting with others.