Monday, December 08, 2008

advent 1, advent 2

Advent 1

This has been an Advent full of hope! We're again in Revised Common Lectionary year B, and this time my own journey started out with a jazz-tinged eucharistic liturgy at one of the Big First Churches here in Paradise, First United Methodist, though this one's in the Valley rather than Downtown. As Pastor Molly Vetter responded on Facebook to my asking if we'd be hearing the Isaiah passage that's the 1st lection for Advent 1B and one of my very favorites, of course--and Mark's little apocalypse, too: jazz, prophecy, and apocalyptic go together so very well! A chunk of Isaiah 64:1-9:
64:1O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— 2as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.
Abram was an Ivri, a Hebrew, one from the other side. In Jesus we meet God from the exceedingly other side as God tears open the gates of heaven and comes to earth, permanently obliterating boundaries and distinctions between holy and mundane and confirming the covenant between heaven and earth. It's interesting we identify Abraham as our progenitor in faith, because both Old Covenant and New Covenant people of God form a gathered assembly and the solitary individual before God is the anomaly, the a-nomen, the "other than" the law rather than the general rule, yet scripture and history in general are replete instances of God claiming, calling and enabling a particular individual to a distinctive, transformative endeavor.

Regarding God incarnate in our midst, last week at The Rising we watched part of a DVD that reminded us 1) Joseph and Mary trekked to Bethlehem because Joseph was from Bethlehem and likely still had relatives there; 2) no, Jesus was not born in "straw poverty" (though I love that expression I heard a couple of Nativity seasons ago), Jesus was born as what a recent bank commercial would call a "regular guy," someone who "shared our common lot," in the words of the UCC Statement of Faith. Regarding the otherness aspect of Abraham as the prototypical person of God in being from the other side (of the hills, of this city, of mainstream culture, supremely from the other side of death), what does God's incarnation in the baby in the manger, the Nazarene carpenter and the cross of Calvary show us about us? Paraphrasing Jeremiah 22:15-16, Jesus ate and drank (no ascetic!) and did justice and righteousness, and it was well with him (and better with the world)...this not only is what it means to know God, but to be like God!

Advent 2

Sunday afternoon of Advent 2, featured another unforgettable liturgical event; this time it was the festival of Lessons and Carols in Founder's Chapel at nearby University of San Diego, and an exceptionally worthy piece of preparation for God's birth in our very midst, "fulfillment beyond all human reckoning," as one of the worship leaders described it. Angelo Musicante by Melozzo da Forl To call this experience perfect is a huge understatement! For the prelude music choir and orchestra exulted with Pergolesi's Magnificat, then more than a dozen (I didn't distract myself by counting) people jubilantly processed into the worship space with "On this Day, Earth Shall Ring," in an arrangement by the illustrious Alice Parker (I attended her hymn sing workshop at 1st UMC a couple months ago). Standard scripture selections, etc., and the gospel procession...back in City of History, after an Easter Vigil several of us went to, when I asked the senior pastor I served with his opinion of that congregation's liturgical style (I had my own opinions, of course), he replied he did not care for the gospel procession because it elevated The Book too much. But the gospel procession at the Lessons and Carols was something else altogether as it demonstrated and celebrated how God comes into human history to live as one of us so we can touch, see, smell, taste and hear evidence of God among us; this gospel procession on Advent 2 appealed to and teased all our senses. We had incense during the opening processional, the closing recessional and to accentuate the proclamation of the Word of Life. A couple of advents ago I asked "Is God among us not a Hallelujah moment?" Yes, a time for singing multiple responses of "Yahweh be praised" as we heard the gospel text. Finally, the recessional song was a West Indian Spiritual proclaiming...
The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,
And they say that his name is Jesus.

Refrain:

He came from the glory,
He came from the glorious kingdom.

The angels sang when the baby born,
And proclaimed him the Savior Jesus.
Mary's boy named Jesus brought the Glorious Reign, the Sovereignty of Heaven down to earth--Dietrich Bonhoeeffer speaks of God's "unfathomable condescension" and the Christmas carol sings "Pleased in flesh with us to dwell: Jesus, our Emmanuel, God with us!" During this season of Advent 2008 we once again await the arrival in our midst of The Wild Guy from Nazareth whose presence among us levels mountains, makes valleys higher, shatters barriers, blurs distinctions that separate us and raises the dead.

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