In our first reading, the Prophet Isaiah says that All nations shall stream toward it. Of course he is speaking about a day in the future when the light of salvation will shine from the highest mountain. If you grew up in Orlando, you could be forgiven for thinking Isaiah was referring to Space Mountain at Disney World. Based on all measures of tourism, people indeed stream toward that Magical Kingdom – that entertainment mecca that offers a respite from the imperfect, unredeemed world in which we live.
Our world is not too dissimilar from the apocalyptic images of wars and rumors of war. In our world, people are homeless, hurting, and helpless. People are lonely, lonesome, and lost. It can be a struggle – and there is a part of us that wants the holiday season. That wants a break, a pause, a Disney moment. We need to recharge, be happy, be hopeful, and hospitable. So, we also open our homes for gatherings of friends and families. There are concerts, lots of children’s Christmas pageants, musicals, and we light up our homes and streets against the darkness of winter, the darkness in the world. And like Disney, our homes are filled with people and music: familiar tunes like “Silent Night” where All is calm, all is bright. But the world we live in is not perfect, not redeemed, not Disney.
The words of our Advent scripture are neither “Christmassy” or “Disney.”
…the flood came and carried them all away.
Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.
On this first Sunday, the message is ominous and dark. It takes us by surprise. The message of our Advent Scripture roars, asking us to look around because it is just like it was in the days of Noah. We are going about business as usual, but there is a coming flood that will sweep us all away. While the world would present a huggable, domesticated, Disney Christmas, Advent begins with a roar that shatters the calm on this day. It cries “wake up!” because Salvation is coming; Redemption is on its way! You have to be ready.
If we really hear the Advent message, we would better understand the power of the coming God. If we are deeply connected with the reason for the season, we would not come to church at Christmas in our finery, we would be prepared and come wearing crash helmets and life preservers, prepared to be swept away in the flood of God’s power and grace.
God is not like Disney. God does not want to pacify us – He wants to electrify us. He does not want us lining up for Space Mountain, but rather would have us stream towards the mountain of the LORD’s house. He does not want to dazzle us with fireworks and Main Street – He wants to mystify us the idea that God, our Redeemer, the one to heal, house, and give hope – would come to us as one of us – as a helpless child. Would draw us into the hard and demanding work of raising a child.
A child in a manger, arms raised upward, inviting you into the embrace. A child we are called to pick up and take into our lives, doing the hard work of nurturing our faith into maturity. A Child that will make the demands of love known. A Child that will point to homeless, hurting, and helpless – past all the magic of Disney – and remind us of Love’s demand to be played out away from the Magical Kingdom – on the highways, byways, back alleys, and streets of the Kingdom of God.
The readings of this first Sunday in Advent asks us to wake up, be vigilant, and reminds us that this Child’s story cannot truly be rolled into malls, markets, Main Street Disney, or any endeavor that would soften, temper, domesticate, obfuscate, or obliterate news that should roar at us like the full grown lion, sweep us away in the flood waters of change. It truly is “As it was in the days of Noah…”
Salvation is coming; Redemption is on its way! You have to be ready. You have to ready your family. That’s the gospel message…. and now comes the hard part: what will you do to prepare? And in midst of all the fun holiday endeavors, what part of Advent will you carve out for the Lord? What’s the plan? What are the actions?
I have faith in you… after all, you have organized the family vacation to Disney World – a logistics miracle in itself! You prepared, you readied the family, y’all had a great time. You got this. You can make your Advent family plan to be electrified by the love of God, break out the Advent crash helmets and life vests, prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, with your prayer, time to volunteer, and more. You got this.
“As it was in the days of Noah…” but unlike those days, you can be ready for the Redemption that this way comes. It’s Advent – prepare yourself.