So the readings today, and Advent itself, call us to prepare, but not in the ways of the retailer, but in the ways of the Lord. All of today’s readings have a “house of the Lord” context to them. Isaiah creates a vivid picture of people flocking to the Lord’s house, built on the highest mountain, drawn by their hunger to receive the word of the Lord. Isaiah predicts a time of peace, where swords are beaten into plowshares, and war ceases to exist. In the psalm, people go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. And in Matthew, the house is not of the Lord, but of the servant, and the servant acknowledges his unworthiness to have the Lord enter his house.
One of the joys, and also frustrations, of celebrating holidays when families expand and grow is the intricate dance of determining at whose house to gather and who should be invited. Grandma has always done this, but Aunt Mary wants to try that, and what about my side of the family, when do we fit them in? Real problems, but good ones because we have options. We can choose to expand our house and include others, or we can choose to limit our house to a select few.
As Isaiah reminds us, God doesn’t have that problem. God includes us all. The house of the Lord will be on the top of the mountain and all will stream toward it, from all directions, each on their own path. Who is in this human stream seeking the Lord? The rich, the poor, the strong, the weak, the sick and lame, the morally upright and the morally corrupt, the victims and the perpetrators – in short, all of us, all 7 billion of us now wandering around on this planet.
Are we close to changing swords into plowshares? Well, there was a recent report that we live in one of the least violent times of human history. How can that be? I think it was based on the number of people in conflicts as a percentage of the total population, so the growth in numbers actually has made all of us a little safer. We still train for war, and still spend a lot of our resources on it (especially the US). But we also have increased agricultural yields to un-dreamed of levels, we have eradicated many diseases, we have provided educational and cultural and societal opportunities around the world that could not have been anticipated a century ago.
So where is the Lord’s house? Is it on top of a mountain, or is it in each of us as we strive to move forward on the path that calls us to the Lord? Don’t we really build the house of the Lord one small act at a time by our reverence for each person, by our willingness to stop and help, by our civility, by our recognition that the Lord is in each of us, and therefore we all are in the house of the Lord in our every moment? Don’t we add to the house of the Lord when we remember not only the victims of heinous crimes and acts, such as the children harmed by pedophiles, but also when we pray for the pedophile, in whom the Lord also resides? And don’t we chip away at the house of the Lord when our anger, our frustration, our selfishness, our greed, causes us to think only of ourselves and not of the other 7 billion pilgrims on their own path to the house of the Lord?
And so my prayer today is for the grace to recognize the needs of my fellow pilgrims and act toward them in a way that adds a small piece to the house of the Lord as we journey together on our individual paths to the Lord.
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