Advent…Come Early This Year!
I’ve seen several Twitter folks yearning for Christmas to come early this year, desiring joy in the midst of election grief. Chett Pritchett, a contributor to “The Resistance Prays” daily email, wrote the following on Facebook (reposted with permission with some modified language)
Typically I’m an Advent purist and a judgey-McJudgerson about Christmas decor up before Thanksgiving. But this year, with all that is happening in this world, we all need a little hope and joy in our lives. So go ahead, get those trees and lights out. Jesus needs to get here as soon as possible.
November 6th is Election Day in the United States of America, the first election of significance to be able to insert a split government into American politics, to slow down the runaway freight train of this regime that seeks to do harm to women, people of color, the uninsured and those in poverty. The polls are up in the air, and most of America is up in arms over it.
I agree with Chett that we need Christmas earlier this year: we need joy and celebration in the midst of conflict and compromise. But instead, we live in the already-but-not-yet. The anticipation is almost biblical, so perhaps we need some readings to guide us through these final days.
Perhaps before Christmas, we need to live into Advent, the season in the Church when we anticipate Christ’s return through the readings the anticipate Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.
All of Advent in a Day
The following are the Advent lectionary readings broken down into a single day (Election Day) which may prove to offer some guidance through the tumult of heartache and uplift that Election Day will bring. Take time out of your day for these short Lectionary readings
Morning – Advent 1
Jeremiah reminds us that “the days are surely coming” when “Jerusalem will live in safety.” But that is not yet. Luke reminds us that “people will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” We are called to “be on guard so [our] hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries.” To awaken with such pressure and anticipation is biblical in proportions—take some time, do these readings to guard your heart and spirit against the rise and fall of today.
Afternoon – Advent 2
Luke reminds us that “we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” But we still live under the rule of the Emperor, under Herod, who rules from on high, but we are looking to the wilderness for John to come and proclaim “prepare the way of the Lord, make the Lord’s paths straight.” Will John emerge in the form of an emboldened minority party that surges forward to oppose tyranny? And if they do, will they make the paths straight, or will they wither under the assault of those who only value the straights?
We respond with gratitude. We are reminded by Philippians that we take a moment this afternoon to give thanks “constantly praying with joy” that in many ways our world “overflows” with God’s love. We may be on the front lines or landlocked in a landslide county, but we can give thanks for the ability to do all this work with others.
Evening – Advent 3
The East Coast results start to roll in—contentious and expensive governor races fraught with racial tensions. Even though Zephaniah says “you shall fear disaster no more” we remember two years ago we were at ease at this time. We calm our fears through Isaiah “I will trust and not be afraid,” knowing that God is sovereign despite human failings, and the Empires of this world will not endure so long as there are people of faith organized and empowered to proclaim God’s witness. We cannot be complacent, but we can rest when the work is done.
Perhaps the evening is when it is time to turn to Philippians again and “let your gentleness be known to everyone.” Maybe call friends across the political aisle and just let them know you are thinking about them and glad to share a country with them. Before the tastes of victory or defeat, renew one’s personal relationships.
But before the polls are closed, we are reminded of the practical advice by John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke, telling us that after the decisions are made, after the axe is swung at the tree, that we are to share our coats and our food, and consume only what we need. That no matter what, we will be entering a winnowing time of either a split government of contention and finger-pointing, or one that continues to consume the poor, the brown, the black, and the marginalized.
Darkness falls—or is it light?
Advent 4, the last readings before Christmas, things become more clear. We discover whether we will live into Micah and “live secure” with more of a bulwark against this American regime, or whether we live into the Psalm and are fed with “the bread of tears.”
We start to take account of what Hebrews reminds us about “burnt offerings and sin offerings,” wondering what bridges have we burned and what sins have we justified in pursuit of success or loss. We may hear next door celebrating or mourning, the opposites of us and we wonder which of us will be “scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.”
And despite some lingering election results (probably…Florida), we live with more certainty and clarity of what the way forward will be.
After Advent, which looks forward to the end of time where Christ has returned and set the world to rights, the liturgical calendar turns back to the beginning: to the birth of Jesus, the refugees and Middle Eastern persons and the poor and the immigrants who welcome him. So we don’t have guidance as to what comes after Advent, because the church calendar turns its gaze backward to not miss a moment of when the hope of the world came.
Election Day will not be the hope of the world. The hope of the world will not come the day after Election Day. The American Regime will either become emboldened to continue to squeeze Americans through clenched fists, or it will be in its reactionary throes of lame ducks, seeking to consolidate all it can before it loses the House or Senate. It will be an ugly time of reactions and violence, and Christians are called to rise above it.
Instead, we are called to proclaim Christ, found at the beginnings and ends of human experience, and who offers hope in the form of Jesus, dropped in the middle of a despotic Empire, where no lives mattered, no women had rights, and somehow became the guiding force for a Church where (in many areas) black lives matter, marginalized lives matter, and women’s voices and choices are honored.
May we live into that history with faith, hope, and love, lived out in the political and social realms, until Christ truly comes in glory.
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