a sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A
Jesus is the reason for the season. But what’s the reason for Jesus? And how long before we reach God’s holy mountain?
A group of interfaith religious leaders were getting a tour around the Jerusalem Zoo by its chief administrator. They came upon one cage where a lion was lying together with a young lamb.
The head of the delegation was amazed. “For 2000 years, we’ve prayed for signs of the messianic era and the prophesy that the lion will lie down next to the lamb. How did you do it?”
“It’s easy,” the zookeeper replied, “Every morning…new lamb.”
It seems that every year, the war on Advent gets worse and worse. You haven’t heard about the war on Advent? The war on Advent is what’s going on every day in the news and online whenever people get in a huff about the so-called war on Christmas. Should we say, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays?” Is the paper cup at Starbucks sufficiently christmassy enough, or do they really support Neptune? Did the President call it a Xmas Tree or a Holiday Tree? Did Father Mark spell Christmas with an X, or did he spell out the whole Christ in his homily? How can we take the Christ out of Christmas without taking God out of our country?
Meanwhile, all this is going on during Advent, not Christmas – Advent! And while I love Christmas as much as the next guy, I wonder if Jesus really the reason for all this hullabaloo. Because based on today’s readings, it sure doesn’t sound like it. It sounds like a biblical zoo. Wolves and lambs (Note, lions get a bum rap – the bible never says lions lie down with lambs.) Leopards and goats. Cows and bears. And the snakes, OH, the snakes! Adders and asps. And vipers, don’t forget the vipers, of whose brood we are a part.
What in the world is going on? Is Jesus really the reason for the season? Or is it all about something else?
I’m not much of a gardener, but I think the reason for the season of Advent has a lot to do with that stump Isaiah is talking about. The stump – that’s all that was left after the Assyrians and the Babylonians swooped in and destroyed Jerusalem and captured the best and brightest of Israel’s people and marched them off into slavery again. All that was left of a proud nation was a smoldering stump. For decades that stump lay lifeless and dormant. Until one day, a new shoot of green came out of it.
Advent is about a stump that wouldn’t die. It is about the hope that all things will one day be reconciled with God. Advent is about resolving all of our unreconcilable differences: Cows and bears. Leopards and goats. Hawks and doves. Elephants and donkeys. Snakes and children.
When these unreconcilably different adversaries can sit down and have a conversation about what’s really important in their lives, when we can sit down and listen to each other without harping and pounding on the table and calling each other names, when we can resolve our problems without shooting each other – that is a sign that the kingdom of God is at hand. That is the day when we will live in peace.
The sad fact of the matter is that the lions and bear and cows and lambs haven’t gotten the message yet. Neither have the hawks and doves, the elephants and the donkeys.
But we have – us Christians – or so we claim.
And so it falls to us to begin the reconciliation. Like it or not, we are the descendants of the chosen ones whom God called on to bring together all the unreconcilables in the world. We are the shoot of that stump.
God didn’t say it would be easy.
God didn’t say it would happen in our life times.
All God said was, “This is my son. Listen to him.”
If Advent is the season for preparing our hearts and minds for Christmas – if it is the time when we prepare ourselves for Christ’s return – then maybe we need to try a few things that are more conducive to reconciliation.
Like turning off the news. And signing out of Facebook. And not starting imaginary wars over coffee cups and Xmas trees…or whether or not we say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” when we meet someone on the street.
If Advent really is the time to prepare for Christ’s return, maybe we all need to try being more Christ-like. By having dinner with our friends AND our frenemies. By engaging in real dialog. And listening to each other – not for the sake of responding, but for the sake of understanding.
But here’s the thing, people. We can’t just do this one time and be done with it. We need to do it over and over and over – forever. (Every morning, new lamb.) Because reconciliation isn’t a goal, it’s a process. Living in peace means living in constant dialog.
The reason for the season IS Jesus. And the reason for Jesus is reconciliation. Jesus came and will come again to reconcile all things with God and with each other. Christ came once and will come again to sit among us vipers, so that we can all live in peace.
Thanks be to God.