Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Advent...or Advertising?

Of course you probably read about the insanity that occured yesterday throughout the country when the doors opened for shopping. Police were called in to several Wal-Marts where fights broke out over limited sale items. A few people were trampled on when doors opened. One woman I watched on the news fell to the ground, where her wig fell off. People literally stepped on her as she sought to pick herself up. And at the very least, the shouting, traffic, and parking woes raised blood pressure, shortened tempers, and created a conspicuous absence of 'comfort and joy'.

We weren't made to live this way. Personal and interior inadequacies lead us to look for more stuff to fill the void in our sterile lives, and so desparately do we want the stuff that we're willing to go to war to get it, even if the war is nothing more than a parking war, or shouting match. It's illustrative of the deep void in our national phyche, and the tension found therein. Materialism isn't cutting it, isn't feeding our souls well. And yet, all of us are indebted to the system in one way or another, benefiting from the buying and selling of goods even if we didn't fight the mall wars yesterday.

I'm pleaing for a recovery of advent - that season of looking deeply into our longings so that we identify with Anna who was longing for the coming of Christ. A deep look into our longings necessitates taking the time to look beyond our superficial material longings, and looking instead for Christ to come and fill the real voids that are in our lives.

Our longings for authentic intimacy, close friendships, peace in our relationships, love for our neighbors are all important. Our longings for a lifestyle that embodies the 'simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ', and for a healing of the environment, and for peace among the nations, and for water for villages in Africa. All of these longings are, at the root, longings for Christ.

Too often, it is these real and deep longings that don't find a voice or space in our hearts because they are trampled like the lady with the wig, as we rush off in fulfillment of the next holiday obligation. Enough already! Make space for longing. Pray. And you'll find Christ filling up new spaces in your heart... new light shining in the season of darkness. That's just like God - always ironic!

Personal notes...
1. I commend to you once again the movie "Millions" as a thought provoking film for Advent - and good for the whole family.

2. Looking for a tree? We found a good farm in Isaquah yesterday when we did our traditional family outing. What a rush to be out in the rain tromping through the forest to find a tree, cut it down, and then stand by a blazing fire, as the heat vaporizes the rain in our soaked clothes, with a cup of cider and meet the folks who run the "Keith and Scott Tree Farm". (scroll down on this link for directions)

Happy Advent.


At 26/11/05 10:47, Anonymous dan said...

Totally agree with you Richard. Every year, as Christmas approaches, and my dread increases over what to get everyone, I am reminded that Christmas has been hijacked. Why don't we treat Christmas more like Thanksgiving, and just celebrate what Christmas is, and what the coming of Jesus means for humanity? Why don't we lavish our loved ones with gifts on THEIR birthdays rather than on Jesus' birthday? I live in a fairly large family, and this year I kind of "put my foot down" and asked--begged--that we instead draw names from a hat, and buy one gift for one person in our family. Everyone was all for it, and I feel that a huge stress has been removed, enabling a lot more time to reflect on Jesus, and what his coming to this earth means to humanity. Even the little kids are getting "less" this year...but thank God for that, as they all have more than they need anyway (as evidenced by the many toys that end up corroding in the back yard as their "neccessity" is forgotten in a few days). I am excited more about Christmas this year than many years in the past. Your sermons lately kind of put this idea in my head, and it is thrilling to see the focus of me and my family moving off of self, and to others instead. We will be collecting money at our Christmas celebration to purchase something for a family on the World Vision website. It feels like finally we are doing--even in a tiny way--what Jesus commands of us. It feels good.

At 30/11/05 17:22, Blogger Diane G said...

Thank you Richard for your reckoning thoughts about Advent. As I have ruminated over the sermon I'm struck by how impatient I am; how I fear and dislike the discomfort and seeming instability of that place of longing. Simultaneously, I realize this is the very place God wants us. Trusting in his coming albiet his leteral coming or his becoming in our life in the tangible realm of authentic intimacy, close friendships, peace & healing that Richard speaks of. I'm reminded of a quote by Chardin "...Give our Lord the benefit of believing his hand is leading you through the absurdity and the becoming and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete". How easily I find substitutes to quell my uncomfortable feelings. Mary and Joseph must have longed for tangible answers. The Jewish nation longs for their Messiah, and missed it. God help me not accept the short ease for longing in you. Let me not forsake "a long obedience in the same direction" and miss all you have for me.

At 1/12/05 16:29, Anonymous dan said...

Saw "Millions" last weekend. No wonder God wants us to be like children.


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