Monday, December 10, 2007

Second Week of Advent: John the Baptist

Note: The postings for Monday - Wednesday are taken from a sermon I preached on December 9, 2007, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Oakland.

Around them boomed the rhetoric of time,
The smells and furniture of the known world
Where conscience worshiped an aesthetic order
While in the center of its vast self-love,
Sat Caesar with his pleasures, dreading death.
-W.H. Auden, “Kairos and Logos”

More than any other moment in the Church year, Advent is the season when the sacred meets the world, when Caesar’s world of pleasure and self-love is touched by the far greater love of God. Advent reminds us that we stand at the brink. It’s very essence is about what has not happened yet. No matter what they want you to believe, no matter what the Advent reflections written by the pool in July to meet publication deadlines have to say, Advent, when we’re really in it, is not a comfortable season. The words “I want! I want!” resound above the horns of cars and the tinkling of prerecorded bells. If haste is the norm in our world, haste doubles during Advent. Between November 1 and December 24, we’ve got to do every good deed that has been left undone; we must fill our nights and weekends with revels and the Nutcracker and all the “magic” of the season. In such a high pitched frenzy, any semblance of polite cover up becomes impossible. Tempers flare; illness strikes; tears flow and the system shows its cracks. The world screams money; it screams taxation in the reign of Caesar Augustus, it lifts up those who have and those who have not, the grinding misery of the third world grinds out product after product for 17 cents a day so that engorged corporations can report profits of billions as they suck the life out of them and us. . . And yet, it also brings us together in a mysterious way as I hold the things that they have made. Advent has a lot of this strange togetherness, woven from traffic jams and crowds.

But a moment comes when it is all too much. A moment comes when I am not waiting for a sweet baby in a manger long ago, I am looking for a savior right now. I am standing in a corner of our poisoned earth; I am standing with the poor who have given their lives so that I might be rich, and I am saying “Dear God, save me from all this. Dear God, save the mess that we have made of your world. And most of all, dear God, save me from myself.”

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