During these recent weeks we've been hearing about the kingdom of God, i.e., that time when God's will is done, be it in this life or the next. Truly, it's all one life, and the kingdom of God is the link between heaven and earth. The kingdom is simultaneously: already and not yet. Just as the liturgical year drew to a conclusion last week with a consideration of the kingdom of God, so does Advent, ushering in a new liturgical year, begin with the same consideration.
Fittingly, we hear from the prophecy of Isaiah as the Advent season opens. The prophet takes us up to a high mountain
so that we can get a glimpse of our present and our future. "Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that we may be instructed in his ways and walk in his paths." This instruction comes by way of commentary on where we are and where the Lord's wants us to be. "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." Oh, how we still need to hear these words! Our swords are still sharpened and at the ready! This is not simply a lament for the state of relations among nations of the world; it is a challenge for all of us to examine our lives and how we live each day. What kinds of spears and swords are we carrying? In what ways do we need a change of heart? Life in the kingdom of God means being in right relationship with God and neighbor; spears and swords are of no avail.
At his return in glory, Jesus likens himself to a thief breaking into our home. Clearly, this is an unusual characterization. Thieves break in to take away our valuables. Imagine that Jesus is a different kind of thief, who has come and who will come again to take away our focus on ourselves. Jesus is the thief who has broken into our lives to rob us of our complacency. He will return, as thieves do, to steal again: this time to steal from us the comfort of old ways, challenging us to newness of life in him.
This newness of life includes an increased awareness of our own blessing and of the human needs of our neighbors. Our Giving Tree has been erected in the gathering space of our church. It symbolizes our desire to grow in awareness and serve with all our hearts. The Giving Tree Project benefits children in the adoption process, foster children, seniors in assisted living, women in crisis and their newborn children, as well as adults in a homeless situation.
To participate in the Giving Tree Project to provide a Christmas gift for someone in need, please (a) take a tag from the tree, (b) purchase the gift, (c) wrap it (unless otherwise specified on the tag), (d) tape the tag securely to the gift itself, and (e) return the gift to the Giving Tree by December 15th. Please take a tag only if you plan to purchase a gift, and please do purchase the gift as soon as you take the tag. Every tag represents a person waiting to receive a gift. Last year 32 tags were not returned, perhaps because they were forgotten. Thank you for your past participation and your participation this year as well.
In Advent we celebrate the coming of Christ, remembering in these early days of Advent his promise to return in glory, and in Advent's later days remembering the humble way he was born into the world, "breaking into" human history, stealing away all that would keep us from God's love. Blessed Advent!