Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, Saturday of Week One of Advent

Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time; for it is an evil time. Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said. Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5: 13-15)

We inherently want Advent, all of life really, to be pretty and calming. We avoid problems in the world or in the lives that cause us to confront the suffering of others; the woes of our poor and selfish choices. We like "nice." We steer away from confrontational challenges. John The Baptist and the ancient Jewish prophets won't let us get off so easy if we pay attention to what they say.

I believe they would be chastising us as we purchase gift after gift for our family members and friends without responding to the needs of people with little money or hope this time of year. Amos told the people of Israel that their greed, oppression of the poor, and dishonesty were sins against God. John the Baptist demands repentance (change of heart and life) from the people who hear his words out by the Jordan River. The prophets of our own time such as Walter Brueggemann encourage us as people of faith to realize that avoiding of the realities of hungry people, unjust societal and governmental practices, and dangerous environmental practices are similarly unrighteous and evil.

It's difficult to acknowledge such truthful but confrontational demands. It not easy to preach to a congregation caught up in the middle of holiday celebrations and shopping. Thus, this afternoon, I am instead listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. The Fantasia has a haunting and melancholy tone for me. I love the beauty of the music while also sensing lamentation within the notes.  Tallis' original words for the hymn were:

Why fum'th in fight the Gentiles spite, in fury raging stout?
Why tak'th in hand the people fond, vain things to bring about?
The Kings arise, the Lords devise, in counsels met thereto,

against the Lord with false accord, against His Christ they go.
Psalm 2:1–2Archbishop Parker's Psalter (1567)[2]
There's a You Tube video (in two parts)  that offers Tallis' and Williams' music to the listener. Their music provides me, and perhaps you a pathway into embracing the suffering we encounter in our own lives as well as the suffering of other people around us. It is through such portals of the heart we may find prophetic courage and Christ-like empathy to reach out beyond our own gift lists to the needs and desires of people who are struggling in one way or another. God's love is present in such connections as it is in the music we may be fortunate to listen to on a cold Advent afternoon.

Blessings Along The Way, Jim+

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