Saturday, November 29, 2008


Friends, Family, Sundrie Purveyours of the Interweb, 

Welcome to this page, this site, this intended, meager lode.  A hairline fissure next to other online places, but a place nonetheless.  I am glad you have come. My ambitions for this blog are nearly none. For now, it will serve as a marker for Advent season 2008. 

I came to Advent five years ago with equal measures of surprise and delight. Brought up evangelical, with a Precious Moments nativity on the mantle one month out of the year, I never knew much of Christian holidays besides Christmas and Easter. Nor during college did the evangelical university I attended promise much in the realm of tradition. Yet tradition found me, next to Phil Stoakes and Warren Rankin in the bass section of a Methodist church choir.  

Come Christmas time, I saw more changes than a poinsettia decked-stage or garland strands near the sanctuary ceiling. The communion table put on new colors, and the Pastor took to matching. The scripture readings shifted. Someone had tossed a handful of candles on the stage. The choir sang only the first tunes from the hymnal's Christmas section (although Wednesday nights we still agonized over notes of an impending cantata). Suddenly, the holiday was not jolly and jiggling red velvet.  In fact, it began to look a lot more Jewish. 

The few things I know about contemporary Judaism I have heard from Jewish friends, and while I cannot claim to be an expert on Jewish culture, identity, or history, I have read and loved one of their sacred books (the one Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Christ hijacked and canonized with a book of their own--remember?). This book is where Advent begins. Without the Hebrew Bible, you'll have to forget your shepherds, angels, magi, untune the Magnificat, and disband the animals huddling around the stable. The genealogies wither along with wizened Elizabeth and Zachariah. No dreams, no journeys, no "no room at the inn," no births. Simply, our book cannot be read apart from theirs. 

When we read the stories of the Jewish Bible, we get a sense at just how strange a turn the Christian Bible makes. The Jewish men (and woman?) who wrote these words were profoundly connected to their literary tradition, and their method of reading--interpreting Jewish stories as types of the story of Jesus--has informed literature, art, history, politics, and culture for centuries after. But Advent is not so concerned with what happens after Jesus as much as it is what came before him. Its tune is waiting and preparation, and the stories it celebrates have characters that do just that--wait, prepare, wait a little longer. Christmas doesn't happen overnight.

With that said, I hope to read the Hebrew scriptures again this December. While understanding and insight are integral to reading, my first aim when I hold a book in my hands is always pleasure.  Whether this is your first or fiftieth Advent, please join me as I try to make a little room for Christmas.  


Pastor Steve said...

Thanks for this invitation to Advent, especially your thoughts about how important to Christmas is the story of waiting found in the Hebrew Bible.

Learning to wait well is a key lesson of the Advent season. Even the simple ritual of opening one and only one window on an Advent calendar teaches children a lesson in waiting and shapes them with a Christian mindset that much that God does in us takes time.

Here's a link to my sermon (which you heard this morning) for the first Sunday in Advent: "Sit in the Dark".

God bless you as you journey through Advent.

Pastor Steve said...

Oops, my bad on the link. Here's the right one: "Sit in the Dark".