Advent begins — “Making the House Ready for the Lord”
“Slow down, dear church. Slow down and breathe.”
Beloved community, with the invitation to ‘slow down and breathe,’ one of my homiletical journals described the calling of Advent to the people of faith. Most years the rollercoaster from Halloween to Christmas seems to gain harrowing speed as it tears through the turns in the weeks that immediately precede Christmas. Those weeks are the four-week journey of Advent. As countercultural as it may seem, Advent asks us to note that there’s too much to hear, too much to see, too much to experience, too much to take in to hurry through this season. We are invited to slow down and make room for the Spirit to enter our hearts with the Advent scriptures. We are encouraged to sit with Isaiah and the people of Israel longing for the coming of the promised One. We are asked to stand with John the Baptist as he calls God’s people to prepare the way of the Lord. And with each Advent candle lit, we embrace another foundational proclamation in our expectant faith story. And we light our wreath of candles slowly, one candle at a time.
The Advent scriptures urge repentance, a practice that is best not hurried through. We don’t particularly like to acknowledge the places in our lives where we have wandered off course, nor is it delightful to hear about a God who has challenging standards for God’s people. Our instant gratification culture does not readily make room for such things, but the Advent journey invites us to repent and stand for justice even when countercultural and inconvenient. Repentance and advocacy for justice require deliberate, measured action. We who are often in a hurry to arrive at the next holiday confess that these seasons of careful preparation and prayer are simply not our priority.
We sing in this Advent season, “Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel.” Come, God with us. Come and fill us with expectant hope even as we prepare and pray. Enter us and enliven us to prepare for a new day of life in the path of discipleship. Make our lives, our houses, our communities, ready to the coming of the Lord.
Someone once nominated Mary Oliver’s following piece the “Best Advent Poem Ever.” If you’ve read it before, it’s like an old friend. And if it’s new to you, receive this little gift in the first days of your Advent journey to Christmas.
MAKING THE HOUSE READY FOR THE LORD
by Mary Oliver
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice — it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances — but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest . . . Come, even if my house is not completely in order. “Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel.” Come, God with us, come and enter our frenetic, scattered lives with a settling message of hope and peace. “Slow down, dear church. Slow down and breathe.” Breathe in the very Spirit of God, the breath of life. Prepare your hearts, prepare your lives, prepare your house for our Lord’s coming. And expect to be changed. Expect that this waiting is for transformation, for new beginning.
This “God with us” coming is deserving of our attention; let us not be in such a hurry to get to the culmination of the holiday season. There’s too much to hear, too much to see, too much to experience, too much to take in to hurry through this season. Let us make time for Advent.
Blessings to you, O people of Trinity. May you be safe, may you be well, and may you be held in love.
It remains a privilege to serve as one of your pastors.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Robert Linstrom