I’m not ashamed to say that I usually cry at least once during Advent. It’s the crazy season, and between family and church responsibilities it can all get a bit much. Today a senior pastor of my acquaintance gave me a pro-tip: “I learned long ago that you should just coast through Advent. You can’t use up all your battery before December 25th.” Coasting? Seriously? Is that even possible?
The lectionary path through Advent B feels like a four-sided die skittering across a board game. It tumbles through the four-facets in the order of Mark-Mark-John-Luke-Matthew. Each possible landing leads to a very different past and thus a very different future. Was he “John the Baptist” (Matthew), “John the baptizer” (Mark), “John the son of Zechariah” (Luke), or just plain “sent from God… John” as we have him in John? These are VERY different stories if we let them tell their truth.
Similarly, what are we to make of the beginning of the beginning? On Advent 1 I told my congregation that the Gospel of Mark doesn’t start how we expect it start (no angel, no virgin, no baby) and it doesn’t end like we expect it to, either (the women run away in fear and “tell no one”). What are we supposed to do with that? Preaching with integrity seems to require bouncing from one framework to the next as the lectionary can’t make up it’s mind which voice it’s going to follow because Mark won’t conform to our “Advent is about Christmas” mentality.
Tumble, tumble, tumble. I found myself this advent jumping from moody, dark apocalypticism (I really should stop watching “American Horror Story” before bed on Saturday nights) to esoteric meditations on the nature of time as it is experienced in the different gospels to the unabashed silliness of this year’s pageant. Serious Tay. Scholar Tay. Playful Tay. Tumble, tumble, tumble.
After this year’s good Advent cry I sat next to the railroad tracks that bring tar-sands oil tumbling past my house at 80kmh and smoked my (tobacco) pipe. A new vice. I thought about my ministry: real and imagined challenges, real and imagined disappointments and successes, real and imagined plans. Such a tumble of emotions: click-clacking like thrown dice or train cars on their way.
Yeah, I know there is a payoff at Christmas: simple joys and a clear enough doctrine of the incarnation to preach into. Good will abounds and there is time-off and turkey to spare. I’m not worried about what I’m going to preach on Christmas Eve. I’m worried about how I can preach the tumbly-times, because that’s where I think we actually are most of the time. We tumble along switching from one facet to the next not really sure where we are going to land.
A sermon that talks about the tumbling. That’s what I’d like to hear this Advent.