Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Meditation 1

Lately, I find that seasons pass by almost without my knowing.

I am living mostly day to day, week to week, head down, leaning into the wind, making slow headway against the prevailing forces. Now and again I duck behind a tree or a rock and when I look up, time has passed and things look different. I'm always a little surprised. I can't stay in one place, however, so I put my head back down and continue plowing forward. I don't know how long it will take to reach a land that isn't so windy, but I know it's there.

It's not that I rail against wind anymore. I am learning to accept the wind. Wind is. Perhaps I can even harness the wind. Wind is what I have. I can possibly even learn to love the wind. Wind has it's own fierce beauty. In spite of all that, I will still long for the stillness of a sheltered place.

So I looked up the other day to realize that it's the first week of Advent. Once again I am taken by surprise. When I let myself move beyond the surprise, I find myself taken up in the layered beauty of Advent. Advent is like looking through the glass from both sides at the same time. It is a sort of cubist season where I find myself both seeing and being in the sheltered place even though it has not yet arrived.

I can do this because in Advent we remember what it was like for the Jewish nation to look forward with longing and anticipation and hope for the Chosen One who would lift the boot heel of Rome from their national neck. Of course, the Chosen One did come, but he looked nothing like they expected. Surprise!

In this way Advent becomes a time when we mirror that waiting in our own expectant waiting for the coming of The Chosen One. We expect and hope and long for him to return and deliver us from....what?

Pick your poison I guess. We know the world is one messed up hole. Anybody who pays any attention at all knows that for all it's beauty and wonder and power, there is also something quite wrong with the whole operation. Something isn't working the way it's supposed to. Deep down inside we long to see it fixed. It's a human thing, this longing. We naturally seek the sheltered place.

The followers of the buddha might say that if you can eliminate the longing then you eliminate the problem. It certainly doesn't hurt to cultivate a sense of equanimity about what is. I can say from personal experience that it is generally a good thing to do. But I don't think the longing is the cause of the problem. I would rather say that the problem is the cause of the longing. Anesthesia doesn't repair the broken bone. It merely numbs the pain. The bone remains broken.

In Advent, we are reminded that there is someone who came once to deal with that damage in the most unexpected way possible. He set the broken bones of the world with a profound finality that is really breathtaking to contemplate -- beyond politics or power or money or family or education or anything else that we look for to save us. His method is scandalous, crazy, ridiculous and ultimately the only thing that could possibly work. It makes no sense, but it's the only sensible thing.

Then he moved off (inexplicably) telling us to keep an eye out because he's coming back to finish the job. Apparently, the job is done, but not done. The world is fixed but the fix isn't finished. He'll be back to mop up. When? Who knows?

And so we wait, like the Children of Israel. They returned from exile sure that YHWH's favor rested upon them once more, only to experience repeated domination and disappointment over 400 years. Like them we walk against the wind and seek the sheltered place. And Our Shelter is coming. This is more certain than the rising of the morning sun in the eastern sky. He comes.

This then is one layered layer of Advent -- longing and waiting. We know our Shelter is there. And we know that we can stop seeking Our Shelter. We can sit quietly waiting, for Our Shelter has already found us. Our Hope has already arrived and is yet coming. And his coming is always a surprise.

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