Sunday, November 30, 2014

The week of Hope: Advent Devotions

November 30, 2014
Wait! By Rev. Leslie Dalstra
Scripture: Matthew 25:1-13
“Therefore keep alert because you don’t know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13
The season of Advent presents for us some ambiguity.  We hear two responses to the message “God is coming!”  One is “rejoice and be glad!” and the other is “beware!”   And the juxtaposition of these two responses places us firmly in a place of waiting. 
Oh how I don’t like to wait.  I can remember as a child my mother would respond to my various requests with the words “we’ll see.”  Which meant you’ll have to WAIT for me to tell you no later. 

What are we waiting for?  In the parable we read, it is a waiting for God to show up.  On the surface we see that it is an active waiting that involves preparation on our behalf.  No one enjoys finding out that they missed the teacher’s reminder that there would be a test today, only to realize that you are not prepared.

There is a lot to unpack with this passage of scripture.  What I want to focus on are the five bridesmaids whose lamps run low on oil.  We’ve all been there; we have allowed the chaos of our day to take our focus off of God’s presence.  We have read passages like this one and doubted the message that it gives to us.  We have struggled with remaining faithful and decided not to wait for God.  What if the bridesmaids had waited?  What if they had sat in the darkness only to find God’s presence there?  What if they had decided that instead of running around they could imagine that the groom would welcome them in, empty lamps and all?

Prayer: God who meets us in our darkness we seek your mercy, love and strength.  In our waiting we face our fears and so we wait for you to bring us your calming presence.  In our waiting we ache with longing and so we wait for you to bring us satisfaction.  In our waiting we bring you are anxiety and so we wait for you to bring us peace.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Expecting Advent

                The voice crying out in the wilderness lately in my house has been me, saying “it’s not Christmas!”  Eva, my daughter is even beginning to mimic me, saying ever time we hear a Christmas song or see Christmas decorations, “it’s not Christmas.”   It began in early November when I tuned my radio to 99.9 and heard of all things, Christmas music!  (That exclamation point is there to signify disgust and not excitement.)  It was strange pulling into my drive way looking at our rotting jack-o-lanterns while hearing, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  On November 2 while driving home, I noticed a neighbor had put up their Christmas tree and it was beaming light out of their front picture window of their house. 
              Now to temper my view, I have to inform you that I grew up in a house that didn’t put up the Christmas tree until one week before Christmas.  One week.  So seven weeks prior to the day seems very premature to me.
            Harry has joined in and started saying when we enter stores decked out for the holidays, “don’t we have one more holiday to celebrate first?  You know Thanksgiving?”  And I want to say actually two, while the second isn’t really a holiday, it’s a season, Advent.
           Advent, that pesky little season that invites us to wait.  It’s not just one day.  It is typically 25 days long and it begins during a time when our days are growing shorter and we are experiencing more darkness each and every day.  And while it might seem very counter cultural to hear a Christian say it, "it's not Christmas", I'll say it.  We still have two more holidays/seasons to move through.  There is nothing wrong with waiting ...  in fact it is quiet biblical:  The whole notion of waiting.  And while we have a target date to celebrate God coming to us (i.e. Christmas day, December 25th), we all know that God comes to us in unexpected ways at the most unexpected times.  And often times we miss God showing up, because we are busy doing something else and we are not paying attention.
            And so rather than asking in an exasperated sort of way "WHY?"  I have begun to wonder why?  What is it about the Christmas holiday that we desire to get started preparing in late summer/early fall?  It is really all just driven by the consumerism of our culture?  Or are we missing something in our lives?   Is it because we are not okay with waiting?
           We are invited to wait.  To take time and sit with the unknowns of our life.  To be present in the mess and chaos and not just try and problem solve.  But to wait.

Easter ... ready ... set ... go!

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