Reflections on Advent 2019, Year A
Advent is about comings. In a sense, Advent is about “home”-comings.
- Jesus comes to earth–to God’s home? to our home?
- God comes into our lives–to abide with us.
- We await a future “home”-going or “home”-coming–when people stream create a home of justice and peace together on God’s holy mountain.
An overarching biblical theme of yearning for home enlivens our theologies. We seek what is already but not yet. We journey relentlessly to earthly home-spaces that are not quite home because we remain in both tangible and intangible ways “away” from God. As people of faith, we join biblical ancestors in seeking a Promised Land, a land where there is no weeping or crying or pain. In the meanwhile—until we arrive in that sought-after place—God calls us to do what we can to create God’s home here on earth, in our cities and towns, schools and churches, workplaces and homes.
Some are too much at home in the role of wanderer,
watcher, listener; who, by lamplit doors
that open only to another’s knock,
commune with shadows and are happier
with ghosts than living guests in a warm house.
The undertone of all their solitude
is the unceasing question, Who am I?Denise Levertov
Poet Denise Levertov (1923-2007) writes in a 1946 poem about solitude of being “too much at home in the role of wanderer.” I love Levertov’s poem, though I tend to see faith as calling us to the opposite of what she describes. I hear faith calling us to be at home in the role of wanderer. Never settling for less than justice for all of God’s people. Restless for peace. Always searching for healing, hope, grace. In other words, faith calls us to be at home in the role of wanderer until we one day cross the border into God’s not yet commonplace home.
That, perhaps, is the power of Advent wisdom. Jesus’ followers can never stop seeking. Not until all of the hungry are fed and violence has been stopped and no one feels the sting of exclusion. Not until all have opened themselves to God’s love and are empowered to go out into the world and love others, freed both from arrogance and shame.
But Levertov’s poem says that we risk being too much at home in the role of wanderers. Sounds like a conundrum, doesn’t it? We are called to be justice-seeking wanderers. We are also called to be at home in God’s love. Whew!
I think God’s call to people of faith in the midst of this conundrum is to pray and work together to imagine and create home—welcoming, non-judging, nourishing—home-for-now for all people who are seeking after God’s resting places of justice, grace, and peace.
What does this have to do with Advent? The texts in Year A paint a picture of “home” that is as bizarre as any we might imagine:
- Lions and lambs nap together.
- Swords become plowshares and spears pruning hooks.
- Desert soil blossoms with crocuses.
- Weak hands and feeble knees are made strong.
- A dead stump births new life.
- God is born in a barn.
Advent invites–perhaps even urges–us to watch for the unexpected ways that God is with us. Advent also urges us to imagine how we can be home-for-now for those whose lives are broken, how we can be home for our communities’ strangers, how we can be home for those whose stories have left them isolated, alone, without hope.
Advent calls us to work together to create and be for each other home for now until all of God’s children–wandering people that we are–can rest in the fullness of God’s promised home.
This year’s Advent season–called Year A in the Revised Common Lectionary–immerses worshipers in what we might call “impossible possibilities” that take us beyond the world as we know it to a world of Shalom. I hear in this year’s four weeks of Advent four verbs of expectancy, and I am excited to reflect on these four verbs each week as the Advent journey unfolds.
**Note: Featured image is by Sheila Hunter and is used by permission. Thank you, Sheila!