Sunday, November 28, 2010

Past Present and Future Advent expectations

Good morning God - oh, and happy new year to you.
Today is the first day of the Christian year and we begin it by focusing on your absence.
Here we are again waiting, longing, aching.. for your presence, for your incarnation..for our salvation. As though you are somehow magically missing from our lives - as though we don't know what our 'salvation' requires (do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God)

Of course, this is only the liturgical year, its not a 'real' year - its just something that we have made up in order to try and tell your story and our stories as the seasons pass and the festivals cycle round. We use time as a narrative medium.. and rehearse the events of long long ago in the hope that they will help us make sense of the world today.
And on the whole, it works.
We like order in our lives - and the Christian story has a very definite time-line. We hold on to that because it tells us something of the reality, believability of the story. This isn't  a myth, we say, Jesus really did exist in time and space.. he was born on a particular date (although it was unlikely to have been December 25th) and he died thirty something years later.. He is a historical figure, other people from that time wrote about him, historians wrote about him! - this is no son of Zeus, this is a real person we are talking about...

Time and dates matter to us in grounding our beliefs.. the 'When' of things is profoundly theological.
In the fullness of time God sent his son - says scripture.
'In days to come' -says Isaiah
'You know what time it is' says Paul
The Son of man will come at an unexpected hour' says the author of Matthew's gospel.

So where and when in the narrative we start our New Year matters - theologically. It is a part of how we understand the narrative..
So why start with the time when it was once believed Christ was absent?
Is that really where the Christian story begins?
In spite of the way it contorts trinitarian theology, some would insist that it is - because that means that we start with the sin of humanity and the need for salvation rather than with the grace of God and the gift of redemption.

So liturgically, we begin each new year by wishing it away in longing for a future which is based on a condemnation of the present.
The reformation didn't go far enough - it needed to reform the liturgical cycle as well!

Now I agree that there is much that is wrong with the world, the injustice, inhumanity and violence that we show to one another shatters me, makes it difficult to hope that we will ever evolve.. but there is also much that is beautiful, loving and inspiring which is evidence of your presence, your love and your grace in creation. And I want to be motivated to keep up the hard work, not be encouraged to damn it all and wait for the coming of Christ to fix it! I want to look forward to the second coming of Christ as a celebration of what we have been able to become by your love and your grace. I am tired of denying you, and of being asked to play make believe about your presence in my life.  You are not absent to me, you are very present!

So I wonder, isn't it time to stop inducing this longing for a second salvific coming, and start living with the reality of the current eschatalogical incarnational presence of Christ? Is there no way that we can start our story with your presence and grace? Is it possible to  acknowledge what you have done, and are continuing to do in our lives without dwelling on some mythical tale of an absent God?

I want to start each new year in the same way that the Bible starts its narrative - no - not with some mythical fall - but with the statement that You have made all things GOOD. That you are in the world and engaged with your creation, that in the fullness of time you expressed that belonging and being incarnationally to share with us the how and the wherefores of what we were created to be.

I want to dance with delight at another year in which Christ is present as promised.  I want to be so full of joy at God's presence that by the time Christmas comes, the retelling of the nativity narrative will inspire me to grow in grace as well as fill me with the wonder of love.

Today is the New Year - today we celebrate the presence of Christ in the world, the love of God in us all and the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us into understanding the truth that Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again - in each and every one of us as promised.
And great will be our rejoicing on the day that we share with Christ all that we have been working with You, God, to achieve.


  1. "I want to start each new year in the same way that the Bible starts its narrative - no - not with some mythical fall - but with the statement that You have made all things GOOD."

    Wonderful. That sounds like good news to me! I have heard someone else use similar language as you, I will see if I can remember where...

    You are correct in say that there isn't space within our calendar to celebrate this... where could we introduce it into the rhythm of the liturgical year?

    After a brief reflection on this it seems to me that it doesn't really fit! The narrative of the year is based (primarily) around the gospel narratives (with all its Hebrew Bible overtones) rather than the entire Biblical narrative. It seems to me that the goodness of the creator God, and therefore the goodness of God's creation is so fundamental that it does not fit at the beginning of our liturgical narrative because it is before the narrative itself.

    So maybe the question is, how do we re-align our entire narrative in view of the goodness of God & creation?


  2. Adam
    Wonderfully expressed - thank you. You have understood exactly what I meant when I said the Reformation just didn't go far enough.