Advent Reflections @ CEC - December 3, 2020
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes…and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1943
Scripture & Devotion: Hebrews 6:18-20 “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest….” Hebrews 6:18-20 (New Living Translation)
“Hope” is the thing with feathers - That perches in the soul - And sings the tune without the words - And never stops - at all – Emily Dickinson
Hope: An Anchor—and a Feathered Thing We live in the time of “already and not yet.” We live between Kingdom already came, inaugurated by Christ’s coming to earth, his death, and his resurrection, and Kingdom not yet, the end of time when God will make all things new. Our time—these centuries in between—is transitional, liminal. I love the sound of that word, "liminal." It sounds somehow fluid, slippery. I love knowing that the literal meaning is “threshold,” a place to watch our step and look forward, poised in anticipation of the “Kingdom not yet.” This liminal place, this Kingdom “already and not yet,” is a place to hold on to hope.
Years ago, in a desert community halfway around the world, I stepped across a literal threshold and threw our family into a test of our hope. Trivial as it sounds, it was all about a cat—a Handful of Fluff with Very Little Brain.
Late at night that Christmas Eve, I stepped outside to water a plant by the front door. I went back inside and locked the door. The household—parents, children, dog and cat—settled snug in our beds.
Or so I thought. The next morning, the smallest member of the household was nowhere to be found. She was a cosseted, indoor cat, often curled into a pile of stuffed animals, eating after we stroked her back to her satisfaction. When our dog bothered her, she made herself small until she could escape. Outside was dangerous and unfamiliar. A place where wild dogs roamed, where drivers were careless.
It was a gloomy morning as we ate breakfast and opened our gifts. We felt no Christmas joy as we left for our weekly worship gathering. On this sunny day, the street was filled with children playing. We rolled down the window and let them know our cat was missing. When we drove home after worship, one of the boys still playing in the street waved us down. “Someone found your cat.”
A woman we didn’t know had seen a driver swerve to avoid a flat mass just ahead. She went closer to investigate, expecting to find a dead animal. Instead, it was our terrified kitty, making herself small in the middle of the road. The woman scooped up this exhausted pile of fluff, took her home, and brushed hundreds of burrs from her fur. Our kitty was soon home, regal as ever, several of her lives still intact.
I have often thought about that Christmas. We struggled with our emotions as we went through the motions of celebration--a festive breakfast, gifts, carols, the timeless story of a baby born into poverty, disgrace and oppression, asleep in a feed trough as angels shouted “Glory.”
We had so little hope that day. The feather fluttered so feebly we could barely hear its song. Even so, the anchor held us steady. In what still seems like a small miracle, we saw God’s faithfulness in a specific way that mattered very much to our family.
Our circumstances today seem more consequential. We lie awake and cry out to God for his intervention in the lives of those we love. Year after year, we often feel that we see few answers. The current season of disease and division, of disasters natural and manmade, can feel like the unfolding plot of a tragedy. What unexpected calamity will come next? We feel overwhelmed. Emotions churn. We freeze, uncertain even how to pray, paralyzed in the middle of circumstances that feel unfamiliar and dangerous. From our earthly perspective, our concerns require big miracles, divine interventions almost beyond our imagination. Yet…in this liminal time, this Kingdom of “already and not yet,” we can have confidence as we take refuge in God’s promises. Our anchor holds, firm and secure. Hope perches, singing.
Lord, we accept the invitation of Advent to refocus our hearts. We turn our weary spirits toward the BIG miracle of Christ coming to earth. We look forward to the time when you will fully restore your creation. We rest on sure promises that anchor our souls. We tune our ears to the song of hope.