Wait | 3rd of Advent

James 5:7-10

7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, you must be patient as you wait for the coming of the Lord. Consider the farmer who waits patiently for the coming of rain in the fall and spring, looking forward to the precious fruit of the earth. 8 You also must wait patiently, strengthening your resolve, because the coming of the Lord is near. 9 Don’t complain about each other, brothers and sisters, so that you won’t be judged. Look! The judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of patient resolve and steadfastness. (CEB)

Wait

There is something paradoxical about the Season of Advent. The world around us is decked out in Christmas greens and reds. Indeed, our sanctuary is already dressed in its Christmas best while the color of our altar paraments and clergy vestments is Royal Blue—an alternate color for the season since the primary color used for Advent is a much more somber violet-purple: the same as Lent.

The radio stations are playing every hit Christmas song from the past seventy-five years: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley, Darlene Love, The Waitresses, Mariah Carey, and Brenda Lee’s Rockin Around the Christmas Tree are lighting up the radio. But here in church we’re singing somber lyrics set typically in minor keys: mostly those hymns from page 195 to 216 in our United Methodist Hymnal, but also hymns like #626 where we sing, Let all mortal flesh keep silence.

One of my favorite Advent hymns is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, which reminds us that there’s even something paradoxical in our Advent songs. What other season of the church has us sing the word Rejoice—written with an exclamation point—in a minor key? The minor key makes it sounds like we’re not really rejoicing, or we’re rejoicing over an ingrown toenail. Rejoice! Rejoice! My in-grown toe-nail… No matter which way you spin it, the song doesn’t sound particularly joyful… yet it is! It’s full of hope! Every stanza tells the story of our hope in Jesus Christ.

There is something paradoxical about Advent, in particular, the third Sunday of Advent. The candle of the Advent Wreath is a lively rose-pink color, which intentionally sets it apart from the other three that are, again, either Violet-purple or Royal Blue. This is Gaudete Sunday: Rejoice Sunday. The rose candle stands as a reminder in all of this somberness that while we are waiting in darkness—even waiting impatiently—redemption is on the way.

The paradox of our songs reflects the paradoxes of our faith in Jesus Christ. There is strength in weakness. There is power in our self-emptying. Through the foolishness of Christ, we become wise. There is victory in defeat. When we give, we actually receive. When we die, we go forth to live. We conquer by yielding. We find rest by receiving a yoke. We reign by serving. There is resurrection in crucifixion. We are made great by becoming small. All the fullness of God was pleased to dwell in a helpless baby. The King of kings was born in a cave used to stable farm animals. The Royal Son of God’s first bed was a manger because his mother had nowhere else to lay him after giving birth. Jesus Christ is at the same time fully God and fully human.

In addition to being paradoxical, Advent reminds us that waiting is a part of human life. There’s an element of waiting in every aspect of human life. When we’re children, we have to wait to grow up. When we’re in school, we wait to graduate. When we graduate, we have to wait to get a job and earn some money. When we’re in a relationship, we have to wait to get married. Then, we wait to have children. And, once you have children, you have to do a lot more waiting. I didn’t know a thing about child development when I became a father. I remember when Kara was born, one of the things I asked my wife was how long it would be until I could have a conversation with her.

We have to wait for everything. By golly, the pastor even makes us wait to sing all our favorite Christmas carols. The rest of American society is singing the good stuff, why can’t we sing carols during Advent? Believe me, I hear the complaints every year. And every year, I tell people, wait. Christmas is coming, but it’s Advent right now. Wait. But waiting isn’t popular. Waiting isn’t easy. Yet, waiting is an overarching Biblical theme.

It actually takes practice to wait well. That’s what we call patience. Sometimes we call it endurance. Patience is something we learn by having to wait. Patience rarely comes naturally. Anyone who has experience with young children knows that much. Patience is often a difficult lesson for little ones. When a child really wants something, we know how they act. I’ve seen children tense up and start to vibrate, as if they can will time to pass more quickly so they can be done waiting. So, we wisdom-wielding adults quote the adage to our children that patience is a virtue. (Especially when our patience with their impatient antics has run out). Children—and adults—can quickly tire of being patient.

For about two-thousand years, the Church has waited for the advent of Jesus Christ. James reminds us to be patient until the coming of the Lord, and he gives us an example of how farmers have to wait. They have to be patient and wait for the fall and the spring rains. I know that sounds a little backward to us, but the growing season is a little different in Israel. In that climate, fields are sown in the Fall and harvested in the Spring. Farmers have to wait patiently for their crop.

But there’s a caveat about how farmers wait. I have generations of farmers in my family. In fact, part of Eastland Mall now sits in my Great-Grandparents’ cornfield. Joseph and Matilda Hirsch lived on Slaughter Avenue, which was later renamed Division Street, and is now buried under the Lloyd Expressway near Green River Road. If you know anything about farmers, you know they don’t sit around and wait for the rain. Nor do they plant their fields and lay about in their hammocks until it’s harvest time. There’s always work to be done. When farmers wait for the crop to ripen, it’s an active kind of waiting. It’s waiting with a heavy dose of preparation.

But, by and large, our culture is so frantic that impatience might better describe the virtue we value most. Afterall, impatience is the trait we often display. When I get impatient, I grumble and complain. (Surely, I’m not the only one). Whether I’m stuck in rush-hour traffic—which, by the way, I’ve always found an ironic name since rush-hour traffic usually doesn’t go anywhere fast—or standing in the checkout line at the store when there are twenty people wanting to check out and only one cashier. Amazon now delivers on Sundays so we don’t have to wait for an entire weekend to pass by before we get our packages. In fact, the gluten-free crackers I ordered for Communion will be delivered today because I can’t figure out how to tell Amazon to NOT deliver stuff on Sundays. Our impatience as a cultural norm adds unnecessary stress to our lives, and the negative health effects of that stress actually shortens them. We’re so impatient that we’re impatient to die.

But there are saints who can teach us patience. My mother is one of those patient people, and I fully realize that she probably developed her patience shortly after my brother was born. (You though I was going to say after I was born, didn’t you? What? I was an angel. My mom’s friends dubbed me “Chris the Good.” My brother was Eric the Barbaric).

Wherever Mom learned her patience, she tried to teach us that it’s better to be patient. I’ll never forget the time I was driving with her when I got stuck behind some slow boat that I couldn’t pass. I grumbled about the driver, and I told him exactly where he could find the gas pedal. And my mom said, “Just think about it this way. God might have put this driver in front of you to slow you down. It might also be God’s way of keeping you from getting into an accident farther up the road.”

I recall that, after offering one of the most pronounced teenage eye-rolls in human history, I said, “But he’s driving SO SLOW!

And my mother said, “It’s to teach you patience.”

That probably wasn’t my first lesson in patience, but it is one that I remember very well, especially when I get stuck behind drivers who seem unable to find their gas pedal. We need to learn how to be patient, but especially when it comes to being patient with each other. Like Teenage-Me-Stuck-Behind-A-Slow-Car, impatience leads to grumbling and complaining against each other.

One of my friends recently told me that his wife had to ask him why the kids kept calling all the other drivers “jerks.” We’re impatient with others all the time. I am absolutely certain that my own children have learned impatient attitudes from me. James wrote, “Don’t complain about each other, brothers and sisters, so that you won’t be judged. Look! The judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9 CEB). When we complain about each other, those complaints come from a judgment we’ve already made about someone. When I complain about some slow-driving idiot, I’ve effectively judged and condemned them. When Christians engage in complaining and name-calling, we actually do damage to the Christian message we claim to champion. James reminds us to stay in our lane, so to speak, because judgment is not our job.

Our job is to be patient and strengthen our hearts. Our job is to wait for the coming of the Lord with an active waiting, an active patience that works for God’s coming rule and reign. Mary’s Song speaks of divine reversal where the proud are scattered, the mighty—who had all the power in life—are evicted from their thrones and the lowly are lifted up. The hungry—who had nothing—are filled with all the best things God can provide, and the rich—who had everything—are sent away with nothing.

We wait with patient hope even in the world’s darkness and sin. We wait even as our hands and hearts work to make the world a better place: a place that might reflect something of God’s dominion. We wait with patience because patience is more than a virtue, it’s part of the fruit of the Spirit. Advent is the time when the church recognizes that God is not finished with us nor with creation. God is with us. God is active among us. That’s why we can wait with patience. It’s what allows us to rejoice—even when we sing it in a minor key. God is still with us, and what God intends for humanity and all of creation will yet be. That’s one more paradox of our faith, isn’t it? We hope for Christ’s return: for the end. Because the end is a new beginning.

Jesus will be here soon. Wait for it.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Rev. Christopher Millay

Hope | 2nd of Advent

Isaiah 11:1-10

1 A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse; a branch will sprout from his roots.

2 The LORD’s spirit will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.

3 He will delight in fearing the LORD.

He won’t judge by appearances, nor decide by hearsay.

4 He will judge the needy with righteousness, and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.

He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth; by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.

5 Righteousness will be the belt around his hips, and faithfulness the belt around his waist.

6 The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion will feed together, and a little child will lead them.

7 The cow and the bear will graze. Their young will lie down together, and a lion will eat straw like an ox.

8 A nursing child will play over the snake’s hole; toddlers will reach right over the serpent’s den.

9 They won’t harm or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the LORD, just as the water covers the sea.

10 On that day, the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. The nations will seek him out, and his dwelling will be glorious. (CEB)

Hope

Joy loves Japanese Maple trees. When we lived in Durham, North Carolina, our neighborhood had several beautiful Japanese Maples. As we walked the broken sidewalks of the old streets we’d admire each one we saw. Joy had wanted a Japanese Maple since, at least, the beginning of our marriage, but we never bought one because we kept moving. My wife didn’t want to buy a beautiful tree only to leave it behind.

Still, back in 2013 when we lived in Fort Wayne, we bought a Japanese Maple after a lot of searching to find just the right one. Apparently, we’re weird about plants because we felt our tree needed a name. So, we named the tree Mariko in honor of a character from James Clavell’s novel Shogun. We found an ideal place for Mariko at the corner of our house. The only problem was that a huge, overgrown bush was already taking up the space.

I fixed that by cutting it all the way down to the nub. Then, I put weed killer on the stumps of the exposed cuts. Once that was done, we planted Mariko the Japanese Maple in front of the dead stump. The space was perfect with no other large plants nearby. Mariko had all the room it needed to grow and thrive, and we were sure our tree would stand out beautifully with a few years of growth.

But wouldn’t you know it, after a few weeks, that darn formerly overgrown bush started sending up shoots of new growth. As much as I hacked and slashed, it keept growing. The shoots were coming up all over the place, not just from the stump. I was pretty sure I’d killed the thing a few times over, but it refused to stay dead. For all I know, it’s still growing at the corner of the house on Candlewick Drive. For the record, we brought Mariko with us to Mount Vernon.

Isaiah describes for us a family tree, of sorts. It’s a family tree that eventually gets cut down to the stump as larger and more powerful empires gobbled up the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. After 587 B.C. only the remnants of a ravaged nation were scattered throughout the world, and there were no more kings of David’s line. Yet, Isaiah declares that the line of Jesse, King David’s father, will see a shoot grow from its seemingly deadened stump. But this new growth from Jesse’s roots—this new king of David’s line—wasn’t ordinary. This was to be something God-breathed and Spirit-imbued. We’re told, “The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the LORD.”

The reign of this future king will be marked by righteousness, justice, and a peace so pervasive that even the most ancient of enemies live in peace alongside one another. This king won’t judge by appearances. He won’t make decisions based on hearsay. He’ll care for those who are exploited by the powerful, and put down those who are violent with a word from his mouth.

We Christians hear Isaiah’s words and connect them to the Messianic reign of Jesus Christ. The reason this text is read during Advent is because it anticipates the full reign of Christ and the kingdom of heaven. It’s the coming inauguration of this kingdom that we’re waiting for in Advent, when all of God’s promises to the human race are finally and completely come to fruition.

The reign of Christ will be a complete restoration of the created order, and everyone is invited to be a part of it. The guest list seems to be all inclusive, as Isaiah gives us this powerful image of the peaceable kingdom where even nature’s most ancient enemies lie down together: wolf and lamb, leopard and goat, lion and calf, bear and cow. We even have the image of both infants and toddlers playing over the den of venomous snakes, which is a reversal of relationship between the oldest of Biblical enemies: the serpent and the children of Eve. After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, God told the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels” (Gen. 3:15).

In one sense, these images speak to the complete restoration and reordering of nature, which fell into decay in the Fall. Adam and Eve’s job was to tend the Garden of Eden by governing creation. They were the pinnacle of the created order and its stewards. When the stewards of creation fell away from God, the created order, itself, fell into ruinous disarray.

Salvation is a cosmic event. We, and all of creation with us, await the fullness of God’s salvation in which the coming of God’s kingdom ushers in a new reality. Predators eat straw like their former prey. At first glance, this image looks like it is only the strong and fearsome predators that have been redeemed and turned into peaceful creatures. But I think it’s more than that. I think salvation is all-encompassing; that, just as lions have learned to eat straw and no longer feed on other, weaker creatures, those weaker creatures have, perhaps, been made strong.

What if this redemption means that oxen have learned to roar like lions, and lambs have been made as formidable as wolves? The justice of salvation tells us that the weak and lowly have been lifted up and the powerful have been put down from their thrones, that the hungry have been filled with good things, and the rich have been sent away empty-handed (c.f. Lk. 1:52-53). The powerful are converted, yes, but so too are the weak.

In another sense, the animals—predators and prey—are symbolic for the human race. They are all of us. The drama of human history shows us that the powerful tend to exploit the powerless for their own gain. Our own culture teaches us that the world is us against them. We have to beat the competition. Success means winning no matter the cost to ourselves or others. Putting other businesses out of business is justified as a means of self-preservation.

Our culture teaches us to think in terms of scarcity: that there’s not enough to go around, so we need to get ours before someone else beats us to the punch. If we manage to lop off a few heads so that we can breathe easier, that’s ok because it’s all about us. It’s a deathly life that we live in a death-filled world. Yet, we do see glimpses of the kingdom here and there, where the predator and prey attitudes are laid aside for cooperation and mutual benefit.

The vision of the messianic kingdom presents a vastly different place where the strong and the weak, the powerful and the powerless, the rich and the poor, the exploiters and the exploited all experience conversion, renewal, a complete reordering, and live together in the harmony of God’s justice. The lion and lamb image is used in Jeremiah, not Isaiah, but I mention it because Revelation presents Jesus Christ as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Lamb of God standing as if it had been slaughtered. Jesus, too, is the all-encompassing vision of God’s kingdom where lasting peace is made.

Then Isaiah makes three references to children. Why is a little child leading this petting zoo of converted creatures? In one way, I think, it’s because in the restored order of God’s kingdom, creation itself, desires a human presence to care for it just as Adam and Eve were supposed to have done in the beginning. This picture points us again back to Genesis and the Garden of Eden when human beings cared for and nurtured the rest of creation.

In another way, perhaps our attention is being directed to the coming child who was born in Bethlehem. The world waited for this child to be born. And now we wait for his return.

Some scholars suggest that the children in Isaiah’s vision convey a sense of innocence. I almost laughed out loud when I read that. I’m not sure innocence is the right image. Anyone who thinks children are innocent has either never had children, or they’ve completely forgotten what having children was actually like. If you don’t believe in original sin, get married and have a child. Parenthood will quickly adjust your theological disposition.

No, the children here don’t represent innocence. Instead, I think they represent vulnerability. There is hardly anything more vulnerable than a child, whether it’s a nursing infant or a toddler. A young child playing over a serpent’s den would be a disaster in our world. But in the messianic kingdom there’s no danger. Isaiah says, “They won’t hurt or destroy anywhere on my holy mountain. The earth will surely be filled with the knowledge of the LORD just as the water covers the sea.”

Finally, Isaiah points once more to the root of Jesse and declares that he will stand as a signal to all the peoples and the nations will seek him out. We’re told that his dwelling will be glorious. The guest list for the kingdom of God is already made up, and all of our names are on it. We’re all invited. We only need to present ourselves before the Coming King and allow ourselves to be converted and renewed, whether we’re the predator or the prey. God’s kingdom will be a place of peace, where old grievances are forgotten, and all enmity is put aside.

The vision of Isaiah is our hope during Advent. We are a people who live between two times: we celebrate the coming of the root of Jesse in Jesus Christ; a shoot which has already grown and brought the Kingdom near, and we look forward to the promises of God being fulfilled in the final consummation of God’s peaceable kingdom yet-to-come when the Root of Jesse comes into our world again. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

~Rev. Christopher Millay

Time | 1st of Advent

Romans 13:11-14

11 As you do all this, you know what time it is. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep. Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith. 12 The night is almost over, and the day is near. So let’s get rid of the actions that belong to the darkness and put on the weapons of light. 13 Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not in partying and getting drunk, not in sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. 14 Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires. (CEB)

Time

Well, the time is upon us. I don’t mean the end of time. I mean the time that I dread each year when WIKY and at least two other radio stations begin playing 24/7 Christmas music weeks before Thanksgiving has even arrived. While I enjoy seeing the Christmas lights and other decorations go up all over town in every neighborhood, a few people are already greeting other people with the phrase Merry Christmas. That’s a little too soon for me.

The broader culture and the influence of commerce would have us believe that the Christmas season is in full swing. But it’s not. Today is only the first Sunday Advent. And, if you were at the Sunday School Lecture Series on November 24, you heard me say then that Christmas will have to wait.

Yet, because our culture has done its level best to turn the Christmas season around and celebrate it backwards—all in the name of commerce, increased sales, and greater profit margins—even for Christians, the Advent season can feel somewhat out of place as we approach what actually is Christmas Day and the Christmas season that follows it.

Right now, we’re clamoring for the manger. But Advent takes us beyond the birth of Jesus. Advent takes us beyond his earthly life, his death, his resurrection, even beyond the ascension of Jesus. Advent orients us firmly toward the future that will yet be. Advent forces us to look ahead toward the wide-open future when Jesus comes again and inaugurates God’s dominion in all its promise, when the hope of a groaning creation, itself, is fulfilled.

The lectionary begins this section with Paul stating, “…you know what time it is” (Romans 13:11b CEB). To me, it feels a little ironic because, in the modern church, we don’t seem to know what time it is. We’ve all but lost any sense of anticipation about God’s coming rule and reign. It’s not difficult to see why, really. Nearly two-thousand years have come and gone since Christ walked this earth. Any sense of excitement or anticipation begins to nosedive when the waiting is extended to the point of indefinite.

Do you remember the parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25? Five of them took extra oil along while five didn’t. The groom’s arrival was delayed so long that all ten of the bridesmaids became drowsy and fell asleep. All of ten of them fell asleep: the wise and the foolish alike! The longer I wait for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the older I get; and the older I get, the more I realize that if I have to wait too long for anything, I’m probably going to end up taking a nap.

I’m willing to bet that most of us have a lot in common with those bridesmaids. It’s difficult to keep up a sense of anticipation for too long. After a while, we start to get frustrated. We get tired. We can try to force our sense of anticipation but, when we do that, we’re only faking it. Fake excitement or anticipation feels false, disingenuous, and dishonest because we’re not being true to ourselves. It’s really difficult to pretend to feel excited about something. Have you ever seen someone try it? Depending on their acting skills, or lack thereof, it can be pretty hilarious.

You know what time it is, Paul said. But did Paul know what time it was? It’s clear from Paul’s earliest writings, like First Thessalonians, that Paul believed Jesus would return almost immediately. But, as Paul continued to write and Jesus still hadn’t returned, he began to understand that his assumed timeline was off. Instead of an immanent return, the early church would have to be prepared for a delay and figure out how to live in the world a while longer.

This was one of the first major adjustments that the early church had to make. They needed a strategy for long-term survival. They started to get organized with bishops and priests and deacons who were set apart to care for, lead, and guide the people of the church. The apostles were all dying, so the church developed a succession strategy. The early church had to face the reality that they would need to persist indefinitely in this world.

Yet, theologically, Paul was right to believe that every moment in time is bursting at the seams with possibility. That’s why he urges us to wake up from sleep, because eternity is breaking into our world even now. We are living on the cusp between the former age and the new age that Jesus has brought, is bringing, and will bring in full. We live in the between times where the world is transitioning from old to new, from the reign of Satan to the reign of God, where all that is wrong will be set right.

We live in a time when God’s love has already conquered. Jesus Christ, himself, was the turning point in the grand march of time. Heaven has been wedded to earth in the Person of Jesus the Son. The past way of things still persists, but the new has come and the past will not stand no matter how much it claws and scratches to grapple more time for itself. We are called to imagine a new heaven and a new earth, a new way of living with our fellow human beings, and even a new way of being human! In Christ Jesus, we are reshaped into the image of God that we were supposed to be in the beginning, the image that was distorted by sin.

In the early days of the church, Christians lived with a real sense of anticipation. The promises of the Old Testament seemed almost within reach, barely beyond our grasp but stretching toward our hands. The cosmic regime change was almost here!

But our sense of anticipation has, understandably, diminished over two-thousand years. That’s why the season of Advent is incredibly important for us. If we lose our sense of anticipation completely, then we’re all the poorer. For Paul and for the early church, the anticipation of the advent—the arrival—of Jesus Christ wasn’t about circling a date on the calendar. It was about hope.

History has a final goal. God has broken into our world and made reconciliation, redemption, and salvation real. God is constantly pushing us, nudging us, urging us, leading us, drawing us toward this promised dominion in which the old is made new. In light of what is coming, of what is promised, Paul urges the church to wake up from our sleep. Salvation is nearer now than when we first came to have faith. The night is almost over. The day is near. So live like it’s already day.

Why would anyone want to cling to the old ways now that a new day has come, and we know how the story ends? Paul encourages us to get rid of behaviors that belong to the darkness and put on the instruments of light. It matters how we live today! Knowing what time it is—that every moment is bursting with divine possibility—compels Christian people to live in the light. It’s when we forget the time that we not only fail to live and love as we ought, but the very foundation of our hope in God’s promises crumbles.

Do we know what time it is? Time, in this text, is not chronological time. It’s not tied to the clock or calendar. In Greek, Paul uses a completely different word from anything related to chronological moments that you can mark on a clock or calendar. Time, in this sense, means a time that is fit for something: a time that is ripe, right, and proper. It’s a critical moment for action. Time, in the chronological sense, has a beginning and an end. But time, as Paul uses it here, points to something else. Now is the proper time, the right moment, for us to live like God’s reign is upon us.

This is the time to look forward to when our hope is fulfilled, and to live like it already has been. We’re already citizens of God’s future. This is the time when we make the moral decision to live in hope instead of despair. This is the time when we stay awake because we know that God’s salvation could bathe our hurting world with healing and grace any day now!

This is the time to trust in God’s future, yet those who hold such trust are never complacent about the present. Our hope in this future ought to make us restless for what will be. Instead of putting up with how things are, we’re invited—even compelled by our sense of unrest—to make things better so that the world as it is begins to reflect the world as it ought to be: as it will be. Hopeful people are disturbers of the status quo. We’re troublemakers in the world. The hope and restlessness we have for God’s future are to be a source of energy and courage for us, as Isaiah says, to beat our swords into plows and our spears into pruning tools (c.f. Isaiah 2:4).

Our hope leads us to work for the very reconciliation and peace that we foresee in God’s realm when it comes. And, for Paul, the way we are to live and strive for God’s reign in the present has to do with community. This isn’t about individual Christians going it alone. This is about how we live, work, and love together.

It’s with community in mind that Paul wrote, “Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not in partying and getting drunk, not in sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires” (Romans 13:13-14 CEB). And note, this isn’t only about Christian community, this is about human community. The two aren’t supposed to be separate things. Christian community is supposed to be a reflection of what human community ought to be. Paul exhorts us to stop doing the things that tear human community apart and live in such a way that human community is built up. Put away our selfish desires—we all have them—and live honorably. Behave appropriately.

This is why Advent is a season critical for the church. We know what time it is but, like those bridesmaids, we sometimes fall asleep to the world. “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep. Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith” (Romans 13:11 CEB). God’s future is near, and every moment is bursting with possibility. Now is the critical time for us to put on Christ and live into the future God has planned. We already know the way the story ends, and it’s worth remembering and rekindling our anticipation.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

Rev. Christopher Millay