I have thirty minutes until the mid season finale of the Walking Dead comes on.
I have taken a nap on my new couch.
Today I sang with the choir.
Today I put my hands on the small shoulders of my confirmand.
Tonight, as the kids prepared for bed (I use the word “prepared” loosely, as it involved much shouting and screeching and dancing around, literally) Kaia said, we forgot to light our advent candle.
Ah, so we did.
So we lit our first candle, we recited our reading. We sang about the first three bars of O come, O come, Emmanuel, since I’d left my hymnal in the car and couldn’t ruin the moment of my children hunched over my Kindle reciting along with me a prayer for peace as the first purple candle was lit.
I sang a minute ago, in the echo-ey cavern of my kitchen, O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lowly exile here…
That mourns in lowly exile.
It is lowly, this space where we capture and hold captive and kill one another.
It is exile, far from the bright face of God. Far from the love that lead a person to walk the path to Calvary with a heavy cross on his shoulders, bearing his own instrument of death. It is a meadow with grasses that wave in the breeze, and a leader who is tired and wrinkled, who maybe has only just learned that the land of milk and honey is not for him, who maybe has only just realized he will be buried on this plain, looking up to the hill that is the new kingdom.
I can hear the excitement that night, as children danced and played around the fires, dodged and weaved through the tall grass, all within site of a lighted city that would be theirs in the morning. I can hear the people as they sang and rearranged belongings, and I wonder if some of our psalms are that old, and I bet that they are. I can see the soft bubbles of their songs of praise floating up and out, the neighboring kingdoms feeling only a sense of anticipation, pleasant and alarming all at once.
Around one fire was an old man, long beard touching the ground, watching the scene unfold and crying out, asking why; obedient in the end.
We are those people.
We are on that plain, not far from the roar of the sea, the susurating waves, the city on a hill that will be ours tomorrow. We are those people, with our tents pitched and our crazy children. We are hoping for the way dawn will break over the sea and the land, cold and clear. We are hoping for something to change.
What we forget is that we are that change.
In the midst of our fevered prayers, our fervent requests, our pleas for peace; we forget that we are called to reconcile all of God’s people. We are called to do this work, it isn’t up to God, He has done his part, sacrificed in the way that he did. Now it is up to us.
O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.
Who do you know who is a captive? To addiction, to the expectations of others, the expectations of self?
Do you long for a kingdom where all of God’s people are reconciled? Where we can check in at the little office with no more than a name and drive up to our sites? That we would turn down the radio as we search for a number scorched into a post, a place with a fire ring and maybe an electric hookup? A place designated for us to live out and discover the mystery that is a Christ crucified, that is the embodiment of a father’s love. A place where we move only up and in, and never out?
I didn’t know how to end my first EVER meditation on Advent I, so I asked Casey if he was taught that fear was the heart of God. He says he was not, he says he remembers the wimples and habits, he remembers the nuns who wore collars and those you couldn’t pick out of a crowd.
He remembers sitting in the congregation on Friday when the kids went to Mass and watching the older kids receive. I asked if he felt a longing to receive also? He said no, because he’d been taught from a young age that his turn would come.
Our turn is now, to receive and to give, to bless and to absolve. Our turn is now to invite people onto our plain, into our campground, where a priest consecrates lowly white bread and cheap wine over a wood picnic table, where we line up with our hands out and come away the same.
Now is the time to open our hands to the blessing of Advent, to the experience of actually waiting for something.
Now is the time to open our hands to grasp the fleeting tail of the kingdom, to look to the east and see the way the lights of new Jerusalem shine in the dusk, to break out the guitars and sing.
Now is the time.
I love you still, for working beside me, for loving me. I cannot wait to set your table, to clear your dishes, to commune you in the divinity that is the small space each week where we all meet and become the same; where we all reach out our hands.
In the meantime I’m listening to the rustle of the wind through the tall grass, I am learning things I have never even considered. I am realizing that evangelism is only a place where you are so happy that you want everyone to know what you have experienced; that that is how we welcome people in.
This place, where our tents snap in the wind, where the grasses dance in the breeze and our songs alert the nations to our presence, this is a place where we welcome people in. Oh man, the urge to just race up that hill in the morning light, to secure ourselves a kingdom is a strong. But we must wait on the plain, we must welcome passing travelers in. We must grow our kingdom with the force of our love, with the belief of our expectation.
If heaven and hell decide that they are both satisfied, illuminate the No’s on their vacancy signs, if there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, I’ll follow you into the dark. You and me, have seen everything to see, from Bancok to Calvary.