November 29, 2015
Luke 21:25-36
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:1-10

Awaiting the Unknown
Advent 1

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Mary Austin
As the calendar turns to a new liturgical year, we enter Advent -- a period defined by a focus on active waiting: waiting for the nativity of Jesus, and waiting for the second coming of the Christ. This week’s Jeremiah passage offers a thumbnail summation of the season: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” But as Jesus reminds us in our gospel text, these days of waiting can often be troubling: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”

That might be an apt description of how many people around the world are feeling in the wake of the recent Paris attacks. There is a renewed sense of apprehension as we wait for next terrorist incident -- we don’t know when or where these agents of death and destruction will strike, and though law enforcement and government intelligence agencies are doing as much as possible to prevent them, we can be certain that there another assault will occur somewhere in the future. (Just this past weekend, Brussels was brought to a standstill when authorities received information that the Belgian capital was at risk of a Paris-style attack.) A climate of fear has prevailed -- and while the Paris aftermath has brought that to the forefront, a survey released prior to those attacks indicates just how much Americans were already worried about Islam, terrorists, and even each other. That fear has manifested itself in the attitudes of many politicians; numerous governors have attempted to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in their states, while the House of Representatives passed legislation calling for a suspension in the federal the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. until key national security agencies certify they don’t pose a security risk. Meanwhile, a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment was capped by presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call for a national database to register and track Muslims in the U.S. 

Yet as team member Mary Austin points out in the next installment of The Immediate Word, the Advent waiting we are called to is of a fundamentally different nature than the waiting we are currently engaged in as a culture; while our civic anticipation is one largely grounded in dread and fear, Advent waiting is grounded in love and welcoming -- for as Jesus reminded us, when we care for our neighbors we are also caring for him. Thus, as we eagerly anticipate our Lord’s return we need to act in this world in ways that reveal our Christian nature... one defined by love rather than fear. Here’s a preview:

Awaiting the Unknown
by Mary Austin
Luke 21:25-36

It’s no secret that most of us are terrible at waiting. Airport gates all have television screens to distract us while we wait for a plane, and even the gas station now has a chattering television at each pump so we’re distracted while the tank fills. People standing in line at the bank are all on their phones. In fact, we try not to go to the bank at all -- doing everything online, where there’s no waiting.

If we have to wait, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. As we watch for world events to unfold, without much information we fill the space with speculation. We cultivate fear instead of hope. We fill our minds with the worst-case scenarios.

Advent calls us again to the discipline of waiting, and reminds us that there are different ways to wait. There’s fearful waiting; self-protective waiting; circle-the-wagons waiting; hopeful waiting; active waiting; faith-filled waiting. Advent’s candles light our way into a different kind of waiting. 

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Immediate Word Team
(Click on photo
  for author's bio.)

George Reed

Mary Austin

Ronald H. Love

Dean Feldmeyer

Leah Lonsbury

Chris Keating

Robin Lostetter