Friday, November 26, 2010

What Time Is It?

Our lections this week are Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, and Matthew 24:36-44. Check them out here as we begin a new season and a new lectionary year together with a new Gospel writer (welcome, Matthew!) who will be our companion, with the exception of a little relief pitching from John on occasion, from now until next November.

You might notice that the blog is showing up a couple of days later than usual this week (or maybe, lost in a turkey coma, you didn't notice this at all!). This is not because of the holiday per se--it's because I've had a hard time shifting gears! How can we do Christ the King, Thanksgiving, and move to Advent all in the same weekend? It's been hard for me to figure out what time it is when it seems like so many different times of such rich significance are overlapping and intersecting, catching us breathless in their dizzy swirl.

My family is working to put up their Christmas decorations today and tomorrow in these post-Thanksgiving days at home, which makes me feel like perhaps this Sunday is time to start talking about angels and the manger and shepherds and the like. But on the first Sunday of the Advent season--our four weeks of preparing for the coming of Christ into our world once again--our lectionary texts don't lend themselves to stables and sheep. Rather, on the first Sunday of Advent our texts are apocalyptic in nature--pointing us to visions not of Christ's humble first coming, but of some future time where Christ will break again into our world to make all things new and inaugurate a new day.

Isaiah's image of this day, perhaps, is one we can get behind--a vision of peace, of humanity in unity, of people "walking in the light of the Lord"--an apt vision for this season where lights appear all around us to cut through winter's growing darkness. Matthew's, however, is a little more troubling. I laughed out loud at the response of one of my favorite lectionary websites,, to the seemingly anachronistic selection of this passage: "Nothing raises my holiday spirits like the anticipated threat of Jesus kidnapping someone at work and then breaking into my house and robbing me. And the fun part is, it will all be a surprise! Yeah!" This passage doesn't seem to fit with our warm fuzzy desires to go ahead and start singing "Joy to the World" since we've been hearing it in stores for weeks now; rather, it brings to mind images of how this passage has been interpreted (not correctly, in my opinion) in the Left Behind books to instill fear in people and lead them to "get right with God or get left," and led others (in direct violation of what Jesus is saying here, actually) to think they can interpret the signs of the times to say exactly when "the rapture" is going to happen--something Jesus says that not even he can do.

I think all of these things weave together, somehow, to disorient us and reorient us as we move into this season. We think we know what time it is--time to think about the baby Jesus in the manger, time to sing carols around the fire--but our scripture invites us into a different time altogether--a time of waiting and not knowing, a time that doesn't look like anything we've seen before, a time that is not to be feared but to be anticipated with great expectation and attentiveness--because in the midst of our spinning time, God is about to break into our world again and do something new. Join us as we enter into this season this Sunday and consider what time it is in our lives, in our world, and for our God who was before time, who dwells among us in this present moment, and who is to come again.

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