|The Second Sunday of Advent
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
It is time to have that “old Advent feeling” and we get an introduction to it in today’s liturgical readings. That “old Advent feeling,” I wonder what that is really. It could be a realization that our shopping hasn’t begun, or maybe cards haven’t been addressed just yet. It seems to be some sense of incompleteness and many things to get done.
We hear in today’s First Reading from a prophet whom we don’t listen to very often. Baruch was in exile with the people of Israel. Jerusalem has been destroyed, except in the hearts and spirits of the people. They definitely had that “old Advent feeling” as they hear Baruch’s whole message. They longed to go back and begin. They had suffered for their sins. They grasp at any little message or bit of gossip that would keep their hopes alive. They were Jerusalem, undestroyed. “For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.”
Paul writes out his Advent list for the members of the early Christian community of the Philippians. He prays that their spiritual stockings, “may be filled with the fruit of righteousness….” As Israel longed to be back home with God, Paul longs that the early church learn to discern what is of value and to be “ever more and more” loving toward each other.
That “Old Advent Feeling” might have something of such longings in our hearts. We will spend time searching for fullness and discerning what is a good value. Longing for completion; longing for more love within and around us seem to be part of that “old feeling.” John the Baptizing-Preacher calls out in the wilderness to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
John, like Baruch, calls to those God loves, to return along the paths which are straight and along roads that have been made smooth. So the way back is easier, but John preaches about the leaving of personal exile. “Repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” is what he calls out and we wonder if that is part of the “old Advent Feeling” as well. God has made return possible, but the turning is up to us.
I have sometimes pondered my opening a little shop in some mall here in Omaha and hang out my shingle, “Ye Old Advent Store.” I would want a spot next to a big department store with revolving doors and much Christmas noise bespeaking not just promise, but actual possession. I would imagine that people would be seeking the “Old Christmas Spirit” by seeing, hearing, smelling and actually touching Christmas.
My store would be empty of everything except promise. There would be such a small opening that packages of fullness would have to be left outside. It would be quiet, no mirrors in which to see yourself. I would allow only one person at a time to enter. That wouldn’t be so bad, because most people would not want to stay long.
The “Ye Old Advent Store” has had previous owners, Baruch, Paul and John the Baptist had short-term leases, but they all met with limited success. That “old Advent Feeling” involves being alone, quiet and being empty. Nature abhors a vacuum and we, as part of nature, hate emptiness within and around ourselves. Israel had to face the emptiness of not having a city for its fullness. They had to go out into God’s “Advent Store” themselves so as to hear once more of God’s ever lasting, but easy-to-lose love. Not that God lost love for Israel, but Israel had misplaced its love for God. Perhaps that is what “repentance” really means, returning to that which makes us happier, more full and complete than anything we can make for a God.
Now here’s the real reason I would have my Advent Store next to the “Christmas Store.” They go together. For those who would first come into the “Ye Old Advent Store,” and by taking some time and letting go of what is making them sad, they would eventually find their way to that “Good Old Christmas Feeling.” They then would want to buy real presents for real good reasons and for people whom they would really love “ever more and more.”
“Rise up, Jerusalem, stand on the heights, and see the joy that is coming to you from God.”
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