Here are my thoughts for the 1st Sunday in Advent, 30 November 2008. The Scriptures are Isaiah 64: 1 – 9, 1 Corinthians 1: 3 – 9, and Mark 12: 24 – 37
It is very difficult to write anything about Advent this year. Those who have read my writings over the past few months know that the economic problems facing this country are more than just words written in the print media or spoken on any number of radio and television broadcasts. The housing crisis is not something that is happening to other; it is something that is happening to my family and my friends. I hear of how this government is going to bail out various large industries but those of us who have been out of work for the past year may be lucky if Congress passes some sort of stimulus bill before the year ends. And what are we to do with a sum of money that will barely cover the mortgage payment? Are we supposed to spend this money on things that will stimulate the economy or should we spend it on more practical things, like food and medicine. I don’t know if Barack Obama ever suggested that the wealth of this country be shared and quite frankly, I don’t care if he said it or not. The suggestion that one can earn obscene amount of money while there are others who have nothing just makes me sick. I know that my lack of work is partially my fault; I hold to some pretty weird ideas when it comes to teaching chemistry at the introductory college level. I expect my students to read the textbook and to remember what they read; I expect my students to work the problems out and be prepared for problems that are similar but not the same as the ones covered in class. My test questions actually require some thought and don’t simply require the students to “kick back” what I said in class. Those were the things that I was expected to do when I was a student and they are the things that I make clear to my students that I expect from them. But that makes chemistry hard and our students don’t want to take hard courses. Our society has, over the years, gotten away from the concept of thinking and analyzing things. We seek quick answers and we don’t want to think about things. We readily let others do our thinking for us. And our ignorance as a society and as a nation is now beginning to show. When George W. Bush first ran for President in 2000, I heard comments about how he was prepared to be President because he had been Governor of Texas and had a M. B. A. Now, I have lived in Texas and, if nothing else, reading about Texas politics is always good for a laugh (and a cry at times). The Governor of Texas is not the most powerful politician in Texas; there are at least five other positions with more political power. But everyone thought that because he was a governor that he was qualified. What works in one state is not always a good model for understanding how another state works. And the current state of the economy can only tell us what having a M. B. A. means as a qualification to be President. We call it socialism when there is any hint of discussion that the gap between the poor and the wealthy is too big and perhaps there should be a more equitable sharing of the wealth. When an individual cannot pay their monthly bills, we threaten them with the modern day equivalent of debtor prison. Yes, there are some who have made some bad financial decisions and have tried to take advantage of the situation for their own benefit but not everyone facing foreclosure is that way. Yet, when a company makes bad financial decisions, we allow them to get funds from the government and we allow many of them to get the funds without any oversight. Many people objected when a man and a woman who were not the same race wanted to get married. Now, many people object when two individuals want to get married but who happened to be the same gender. In both cases, we heard the cry that it was against God’s law. But was it against God’s law or what we think is God’s law? Is it that we have forgotten who God is and that we have made God in our own image instead of remembering that we are all made in God’s image? I read the Old Testament reading for today and I wonder if I am not reading something about these times. Is God angry with us and is all that we see and hear a pronouncement from own high that we are doomed? Or have our own interests and desires so overcome our soul that we don’t remember who God is? Isaiah asks God not to be angry with us and not to forget us. He says that we are what God has made us. And you can hear Isaiah pleading with God to do something to save His people. Some would say that we are beyond redemption, beyond saving. We are like the scholars who come to Jesus and want to know which of seven brothers a woman is married to when it comes to the final day and we are all in heaven. As Jesus says in the Gospel reading for today, such a discussion shows a lack of understanding of the Bible and an lack of understanding of how God works. When God spoke to Moses and told him it was time to return to Egypt and free the Israelites from slavery, He did not say he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph. No, He said that He is that God. He is the God of then, now, and tomorrow; He goes beyond our time frame. We are so wrapped up in the present time, we lose track of the presence of God in our lives. We are the ones who have forgotten God; God has not forgotten us. So we are like Paul writing to the Corinthians, waiting expectedly for Jesus to arrive. And as we wait and prepare for Jesus to come, we are reminded that God has not forgotten us but that He so remembers us that He willingly sent His Son to be our Savior, even though He knew that we would reject Him. And though we once rejected Jesus and, in turn, rejected God, we have the opportunity to change that rejection into acceptance. Even though the darkness of the days resembles the darkness of our mood and the darkness of the times, we know that there is a Light. And though it is very dim right now, each day it grows a little bit brighter. This Light grows brighter because we let it grow in our heart, casting out those things which we think are the important things. We hear Paul’s words about the value of the things that we have through Christ and we understand that the Light that warms our heart is Christ. Yes, these are dark days. But they can will be days of light and hope and promise, if only we allow the Light to come in.