December 15, 2009

Looking Ahead to December 20, 2009 -- 4th Sunday of Advent

The theme for this week is Birth Means Future Promises

The Scripture REadings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Micah 5:2-5a
  • Psalm 146 (VU p.868)
  • From the Gospel: Luke 1:39-55

The Hymns this week are:
  • 44 It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • 46 Gentle Mary Laid Her Child
  • 899 Song of Mary (tune ???)
  • 76 See Amid the Winter's Snow

Early Thoughts: What keeps us going when the way is hard? What brings joy in the midst of despair? What is our source of hope?

Future promises of course. It is the promise of possibility that allows us to keep trying. It is the promise shared by Dame Julian of Norwich that all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things be well which sees us through the darknesses of our world.

People of Jewish and Christian faith are in fact people of promise. Our entire faith story is based on promises both about the present and the future. In my opinion people of faith are also meant to live both in the present and looking toward the promised future.

Some people would say that believing in a promised better future is selling false hope, or that it is is merely a way of distracting from the pain of the future (Marx's "opiate of the masses" line come to mind here). But as a person of faith I see that looking forward has to take into account reality but with a hopeful slant. We can't help but admit that the world is not what it could (or even should) be. And in the face of that admission we can choose to give up or we can choose to believe that things will get better.

It has been suggested that the birth of a baby is a sign that things need to go on. That a baby is God saying the world has a future (obviously that is not a statement of biology but a statement of theology). And so at this time of year when our faith story calls us to talk and think about birth it behooves us to ask what future this birth promises.

SOme hints are found in the song called the MAgnificat. Sung by either Mary or Elizabeth (the tradition says MAry but the Greek text could just as -or more- easily mean Elizabeth) it talks about the time when God's justice will come to pass. Some hints are found in the Psalm we will read, which share the same language and imagery. And of course hints of the promised future Realm of God are found throughout Scripture. And even more relevant, those hints are not only for the future but guides for how we act in the present.

Was Dame Julian right? Or was she being "pollyanna-ish"? Will all manner of things be well? That is the promise of God. ANd it is the the hope of all who parent children. That the future has promise is what keeps us going. And in the end, remember this. As people of hope (and faith) we live in hope. WE trust in the promise -- even if we are sometimes [often??] a little impatient about when it is going to come to pass.

1 comment:

  1. We're in Advent - a time of waiting. Waiting for the hope that Christ brings. But to wait is not to do nothing or to delay. Waiting involves preparation, including restoring right relationships, as Christ would have us do.
    I'll use some of the lyrics from one of my songs to speak for my thoughts about your comments on birth:

    Wait for the promise, wait for the light
    Wait with a hope that keeps through the night
    Fear gives way to a joy in the morn
    Sacred the moment when love is born.

    Christ comes among us even today
    How will we find him? Follow his way:
    serve the homeless, the hungry, the poor.
    We witness when we open our doors?

    Just a beginning, birth is a start.
    First hear the message, then do our part.
    God has shared with us; life is renewed.
    Christ waits for us; our searching concludes.

    (see Adv/Xmas/Epiph edition of Gathering for tune and full lyrics)