From the pulpit: Yearly visit reminds of true reason for season

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 13, 2007

By MARK DAVEPORT / Guest Columnist

One of my favorite thoughts about Advent is from Eugene Peterson, “I’m ever and always a stranger to grace. I need this annual angel visitation … to know the virgin conceives and God is with us.”

Peterson’s words make me think about how fleeting is our practice of living each day in hopeful, expectant waiting upon God. We trek along with routines and traditions and habits sometimes forgetting to consider that the work of God displayed in the Advent season ought to engage us every day. In essence, Peterson’s words tell us to remember, to live in the blessed experience of remembering.

What we do during Advent ought to be deeper than simply preparing for the birth of Christ. Advent calls us to faithful remembrance that God is working to re-introduce the gifts of hope, peace, love, and joy into the human condition. These gifts of God to earth provide the backdrop for living lives that are full of contentment. God is promising that once again harmony will be observed and experienced in the creation.

Many of the texts, specially the Old Testament texts, during Advent will be calls to remember God’s presence with us and God’s desire to see the human creation live in harmony with the earth and with each other. Last week’s text from Isaiah is example: “the nations will not learn war anymore… they will beat their swords into plowshares … they will beat their spears into pruning hooks.” God is at work to turn us away from tendencies that are harmful, turning the instruments we use to bring destruction into instruments that bring life. We need this annual visitation so we can remember.

This week’s Old Testament lesson is from Isaiah 11. Read it “The wolf shall lie down with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together … they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Enemies together. Prey and predator sharing beds. The knowledge of the Lord redirecting the thoughts and actions of all creation. We need this annual visitation so we can remember.

Advent is sometimes an overlooked season of the church. We simply are in a hurry to rush through it and get to the good stuff, the Christmas stuff, the good-feeling stuff, the babe and the animals and the manger stuff. Thing is that stuff is hardly as meaningful or as life-changing as it need be if we don’t take time to remember what made all that stuff necessary. The world was broken. Creation was out of harmony. Only God could bring all that back into balance. Into wholeness. Advent helps us remember so grace is no longer a stranger but the way in which we live and relate to the earth and to all the people of the earth.

Mark Davenport is the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Alabaster.