Saturday, December 22, 2007

Advent Question

Today, the 4th Sunday of Advent, is another of those grey damp winter days when I wonder again just how I make it through each year from early winter until spring. I am not unhappy about anything or suffering from a bad mood, but I feel the familiar longing for green and the fragrance of growing things. I know that winter will seem to stretch on for a long time and that the waiting will be a challenge, as it always is.

The weary waiting is timely, however because it serves to remind me all over again of the spirit of Advent. If our culture had not taken the Advent season and turned it into one long string of frenzied partying, we would all have a better sense of the solumness of waiting for that which we hope for but cannot see, much as Isreal did before Christ's birth. In some ways, January and February might be a better illustration of that historical time, for in those months the tiresomeness of winter really sets in and we all long for the changes of spring, though they seem so far off. At least I feel that way. It is in those months, and perhaps even more importantly now during the season's glitz and distracton, that I must make the choice to look for signs of God and the joy they bring.

The exercise of looking and seeking is one I come back to over and over in my writings and I was reminded of its importance, once again, during yesterday's morning walk. It was also a grey, damp chilly day... one in which the matted grasses, dried meadow plants, the soggy ground and the dripping trees were all various shades of brown and the sky was overcast and heavy. Not the most joyous of mornings from all appearances, but still one to be out and walking. As I approached the overgrown streamside, movement down in the vegetation caught my eye and the more I looked, the more I discovered. Buffy brownish Song and White-Throated Sparrows were literally everywhere, though they blended into the vegetation so completely that without their movement giving them away they were almost invisible. Little grey Juncos flitted along the road's shoulder and stately White-Crowned Sparrows made their way through the grasses while from overhead came the sound of Downy Woodpeckers and White-Breasted Nuthatches tapping the tree trunks for insects. These are the times, standing still and drinking in the life around me, that see me through the winter though, truth-be-told, every year I seem to forget for a while.

It was while I was watching and listening to the birds and thinking about the goldenrod in front of me that the discussion from my last post came to mind, and so my Advent question. Sometimes my mind seems to travel along two tracks at the same time and this was one of those moments. As I was thinking about the goldenrod's roots and basal crown being alive through the winter though the stalk is clearly dead, I was also thinking about Jesus' dying and the discussion of Him being the only example within Creation of death and subsequent living beyond death. And now I am wondering...Jesus was the mysterious combination of being God and man and clearly the human part of Jesus died at Calvary. But what about the God part, for lack of a more sophisticated way of expressing it? Did God that was in Jesus live on through the human death, as the goldenrod roots live on though the stalk dies? When we talk about Jesus' death, do we actually mean just the human side of Him? Somehow the answer to the question seems to matter, though I'm not sure just why. I hope that you who are wiser than I might enter into the thinking and into the discussion.

In the meantime, I hope for all who are fellow-waiters, that your Advent will be filled with moments of seeking and of finding signs of life and of God.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Advent Promise

"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest. They will neither harm nor destroy in all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." Isaiah 11:6-9

I am guessing that most observers of Advent have favorite Scripture passages among those that are read over the course of the four weeks preceding Christmas. Some of the references have to do with Christ's first coming and some with His second. My own favorite, above, is one of the latter, one that promises that all of Creation will be redeemed and restored to its initial glory and harmony when Christ comes back.

I close my eyes when I hear these verses and wonder what the world will look like in that day. What will it be like to live in a Creation so perfect, so at peace, that the animals no longer devour each other and neither will they suffer from man's abuses? I think about what it will take to bring the Earth back to such a state. Not our best environmental efforts, though we must keep on trying. Not our collective good will to save species and habitats, though I work to that end myself. Isaiah says that it will take the earth being filled with the "knowledge of the Lord", with His Spirit so present that everyone and everything will be saturated with His goodness and grace. There will be no more need to hunt or desire to hurt and destroy and all of Creation will be sustained by His provision without the need to kill for food or sustenance.

Sometimes I want to cry out, as did some Old Testament writers, "How long, O Lord?" How long will the Earth and its people have to wait for Your intervention and restoration? I am impatient for the day when all will be made perfect again and fear and death are no more. Waiting is hard. Teach me O God, during this Advent season, to trust that You have your plan in hand and will accomplish it in due time... just as you did that first time, at Christmas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

New Direction

For anyone who might still be looking at this from time to time I'd like to let you know that I am going to be revising the purpose and the thoughts shared in these pages as soon as I can accomplish the task. I anticipate that the messages will still be primarily about the natural world and its connection to the Holy but I hope there will also be times of reflection separate from subject of the Creation. We shall see.

It is Sunday evening now, the 3rd Sunday in Advent, the sesason of waiting on God, and I am finding that He seems to be working into me a new focus and an unexpected longing that has taken me by surprise. I look forward to see just where He is taking me and what the journey will entail.