December 1, 2013
Advent 1, Year A
Readings: Isaiah 2:1–5; Psalm 122; (Romans 13:11–14); Matthew 24:36–44
Those hot scorching days of heat and high humidity seem distant and far away. The end of the year approaches - December already. It seems as if winter may have finally arrived. The days seem shorter don’t they? Have you noticed that the streetlights come on earlier and go off later? Lights pierce the darkness. Brightness appears so powerful that we cannot see beyond it. It is there and in that uncertainty, we can become like a raccoon caught in the lights of the house or car. Frozen in infectiveness. Straining to see beyond. To catch a glimpse of what is beyond yet when we turn around the past is illuminated. We are in transition from darkness into light. The past can hold us or set us free. So how do we go from the holdings of the past?
The past is to remember and hopefully enable us to learn and move forward, to take us out of isolation. December 1st is World AIDS day. Persons living in the west with HIV/AIDS by 2015 over half will be over 50 years of age. This pandemic claimed more that 35 million lives and was considered a death sentence until recently. Long-term survival was seen as miracle. The introduction of retrovirals in the 1990’s prompted a “Lazarus effect”. People were getting out of wheelchairs. Funerals decreased. As lepers were viewed in the Bible, persons with leprosy isolated and shunned, so to were those infected with HIV/Aids. They became our lepers. Yet, for a long time in the 1980’s society was unaware how to engage in treatment or even what to do. The stigma prevailed. The introduction as mentioned above of the retrovirals eased the tension but left the survivors to deal with prejudice and isolation. High levels of anxiety and depression are common in about 75% of the survivors. There is light at the end of the tunnel. The first generation of people infected in the 1980’s whose campaigning led to medical breakthroughs and made survival possible. Education and support networks in Eastern Europe and Africa are limited and the epidemic spreads. However, the Canadian government has pledged $10.7 million that will provide five years of funding to two projects. $8.7 million to find a cure and $2 million for a project focused on curing babies and children who acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy. As the world carries on in its daily workings, the light of hope can be seen in the tunnel. Advent provides a new start to our church year.
Even in the beginning of Advent as a society, we live in the uneasy relation of the Scriptures to both the historical past and the promise of what is yet to come. We fast forward to Christmas and the birth and yet must live in being told that not knowing when the event will happen. It speaks of ending times as in the great flood where Noah and his family survived. Some Christians believe that his gospel is the heart of Christ’s second coming. Theologian Karl Barth is supposed to have enjoined that people start their day with their bible in one hand looking for the signs of the end of times while searching the newspaper to see if those signs are yet in view. Advent calls us to be a community of faith.
As a community of faith it takes us from the historical apathy to the God that created is not only the goad of history but also the goal of history. It takes us in grace to a time that is new. A time when as a people of God we live in the history as past but also of present. That sense of history to present calls us in Advent be a community of hope.
As a community of hope, we see the signs of the end but it takes us away from this sense of anxiety. To keep those “end of days time” hanging on the wall calendar. The serenity prayer usually attributed to Richard Nieibuhr, asks us to accept those things that we cannot change. It is even harder at times to acknowledge what we cannot know. In faith formation, we trust in a future we cannot control or even know the details of. So how do we go forward into the unknown? We go forward as an Advent community of Memory.
In that community of memory that can look back at history unafraid to the stories of disaster, in this case Noah. It shows us that choices are open to us. As people on a journey, we learn from history and from those learnings take comfort that we are a people not alone. History and the stories of them provide sketches and outlines for what could be. It allows us to move towards the light at the end of the tunnel. It also calls us to be and Advent community that is alert.
As an alert community we are challenged to be awake, to be ready when the event happens. The story challenges us not to doze off, to be prepared in all ways – physically, mentally, and spiritually. It allows us to move forward.
The light at the end of the tunnel is hope. It is that hope we are not required to know everything. It is that hope that we are not required to everything. We are challenged though to be ready. Can you be ready? What will you do this next week on your Advent journey?
Thanks be to God