By Amy Carr
Advent is such an exhilarating mix of yearning minor key and shake-you-up crescendo — an invitation to repentance in the name of a radical hope.
We begin with the call to repentance of John the Baptist, the messenger who made a path clear for Christ; Elijah redux.
The world into which Jesus appears is swaddled in the spirituality and sensitivity of the biblical prophets. Filling in valleys, making low the mountains; raising up the lowly and bringing down the presumptuous . . . the business of the prophet is to be uncomfortably strident in ways that zap us to the core.
(You know you face true prophetic words when they resonate; when they don’t irritate, but strip you bare — as if uttered by one who knows you well, and with high expectations.)
Give away a tunic if you have two . . . don’t extort more than your fair share of wages . . . don’t accuse people falsely, destroying their lives. Do not think you are protected just because you have a worthy lineage. You yourself must bear good fruit. (Luke 3)
The hope of a savior is the hope for a new possibility for our own lives — as individuals capable of bowing in repentance, in baptism; but also then in our shared life together.
Advent does not only stir us up to that blessedly confusing temporal mix of remembrance and anticipation — of recalling the past coming of Jesus as a child of Mary and Joseph, hoping for a new sense of Christ as present in us this Christmas, all while anticipating the future coming of Christ, the day of YHWH in both judgment and salvation.
Advent also calls us both within and outside: to a repentant awareness of the barriers to a reception of Christ that we find not only in our very souls, but also in the social fabric of our shared world.
Advent invites us to step out, to find a path, right amid the muck of all that sounds awry within and without. We start to walk right from the midst of this world, with our awareness of tragedies and deep-seated fear and outrage, near and far.
What’s the first step you notice — the one that will take you (and so help the rest of us) to the manger?