Archive for November 23, 2004

Earth Cycles – Advent

November 23, 2004 Leave a comment

As the seasons change, we change. The relationship of the sun to the earth impacts our weather and in turn impacts our lives. When temperatures drop, we change our clothes, our activities, our homes and even our attitudes. One way we acknowledge these changes is through our culture rituals.

When humans lived more agrarian lifestyles, the impact of these changes were more dramatic. Rituals and activities emerged, acknowledging changing seasons. Various rituals were enacted to help assure the best outcome during the coming season. In the ancient Mesopotamian culture, the onset of winter was a sign of creation coming undone, unraveling. The people engaged in various rituals to help stave off the chaos and keep them safe until another year. So at their root, many of these ancient rituals were ultimately about power and the challenge of impacting natural or divine power for the best outcome.

Jews and Christians have also marked the changing seasons with various holy days. Yet in some ways, the nature and character of Judeo-Christian festivals are different. At their root, each of these holy days are commemorative. While ritualized behavior may be part of the event, it is less about power and more about memory. The Jewish festivals memorialize the actions of their God on behalf of his people.

Thus the festival is not for God but for the people. It is to remind the people that there is a Creator who is benevolent, full of mercy and lovingkindness. It is a time to remember that God has not forsaken his people or this earth and that ultimately he will restore all things.

Following in the steps of her forefathers, the early Christians enacted festivals of memory. Their festivals all centered on the life and action of Jesus Christ. From birth to death to resurrection to future return, the Christians celebrated and celebrate Jesus through actions designed to reinforce our common memory.

And yet there is an odd juxtaposition of Christian celebrations and natural events. In December, the weather in the Northern Hemisphere grows colder and natural things appear to die. This is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Thus eternal and unquenchable life is celebrated in the midst of death. When death seems to dominate our landscape, we are reminded of life.

In the Spring, when the earth awakens from a winter nap, everything appears to come alive. It is then that Christians celebrate the death of Jesus. When everything appears beautiful and like paradise, we remember death—Jesus’ death and our own. We are mortal creatures who are dying. This memory helps put every day in proper perspective.

Of course, at this time we also celebrate the resurrection of Christ and coming of His Spirit at Pentecost. In spite of our own mortality, we are reminded of a hope that is not bound by the limitations of this earth.

The hope within the Jewish and Christian memory is that the God who has acted will ultimately act to reveal His kingdom on this earth. While humanity appears to act in incurably evil ways, we have hope that evil will eventually be eliminated and the goodness of God will forever prevail.

While some may use this hope to complacently await an escape from their problems on earth, the Judeo-Christian tradition has found that this hope gives us energy to act for good in the present moment. We resist all evil. We resist oppression of humans as well as destruction of this creation. And we believe that our actions are not futile.

Throughout our combined history, our people have held this hope that while our efforts may appear miniscule and doomed to fail, good will ultimately prevail because God’s lovingkindess will ultimately triumph.

As the days of November fade, we prepare to celebrate the Christian season of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany.

In the midst wars throughout the world, in the midst of scandals rocking the United Nations, in the midst of divisions across our political landscape, we pause and look upward with hope. In the midst of human striving, we remember. We wait. We watch for the coming of the Lord.

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