We have a problem with WHAT REALLY IS. Secular society wants us to deny WHAT REALLY IS; to match our mood with the holiday lights; to delay depression; to suspend belief, at least until "the holidays" are over. Advent will not let us off so easily. Advent will not let us hide our feelings of loss or pain or sadness. Advent will not let us box up events like the deaths of loved ones, Ferguson, Syria, Iraq and Israel-Palestine and hide them away until January. Advent takes WHAT REALLY IS and shoves it into our face; forcing us to come fully to grips with WHAT REALLY IS as it really is. No sugar coating. No illusory hope. No irresponsible optimism. No slick or simplistic solutions. Advent confronts WHAT REALLY IS; it will not let us pretend that everything is, or will be, ok. Rather than deny WHAT REALLY IS, Advent asks us to accept it; rather than suspend belief, Advent invites us to focus our belief â€” not on a God who will someday take us away from WHAT REALLY IS â€” but on a God who remains present in WHAT REALLY IS with the intent to transform it. From the inside out. Advent invites us to face WHAT REALLY IS and listen carefully so that we hear what Mark the Evangelist calls "the beginning of the Good News."
When Mark the Evangelist began to compose his gospel, WHAT REALLY IS was really bleak. Jerusalem was a still-smoking ruin. Its Temple leveled. Its stones toppled. Its people driven away. Their social order ruined. Their economy devastated. There were food shortages and fuel shortages. Thugs roamed the streets. Grossly over-armed imperial police among them. Wars; rumors of wars; famines; illegal search and seizures; arrests and panic. An overwhelming sense of loss permeated everything and it was contagious. This was WHAT REALLY IS in Mark's world and according to Mark, This was "the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God." WHAT REALLY IS was bleak; sadness was contagious; and Mark said this was "the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God." Especially today, Advent shouts that message; a shout in the dark, to be sure, but a shout that is anything but naÃ¯ve.
The Advent prophets confess it: We have adversaries; they are not a figment of our imagination. We are mortal; even the best of us are but clay. With us and all God's people, Advent's prophets unabashedly plead for deliverance.
The Advent apostles acknowledge it: Our human weakness; the sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always painfully transitory nature of real life in our world. With us and all God's people, the Advent apostles unabashedly plead for vision amidst transition.
Even Jesus, "the reason for the season," does not shy away from painting a bleak picture of human nature and the state of the world; of all that is really real.
We call such preaching "apocalyptic;" we contemporary preachers condemn it and seek to avoid it because, when proclaimed by the wrong voices, it comes out as so much self righteous, anti-somebody violence. Yet we also know it's about what is real, and that is only marginally worse than the self-indulgent anti-somebody behavior those who want us to deny WHAT REALLY IS expected of us.
To deny WHAT REALLY IS illusory. To destroy WHAT REALLY IS unthinkable. In Advent, we invite God to redeem WHAT REALLY IS; and we listen closely so that we can hear, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the Son of God."
In order to hear that; in order to understand each of our WHAT REALLY IS as birth pangs and not death throes, we need prophets and apostles, preachers and evangelists. We need the whole company of saints on earth and in heaven. We need each other. Together, we need to acknowledge that we often experience God as not present but absent and, with Mark the Evangelist and the prophets and preacher and people of his day we need to pray that most ancient of prayers: Maran atha "Come, Lord Jesus!"
But we need to pray this as an Advent prayer; not a pre-Christmas prayer; for an Advent prayer asks Jesus to come, not as Bethlehem Babe "to bear and fight and die" all over again, but as the crucified and risen Lord whose coming completes the Good News and makes WHAT REALLY IS a new creation where justice flows down like water and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. We need to pray this as an Advent prayer, for an Advent prayer is a baptismal prayer, it does not anticipate the death of death but assumes that Death is already behind us because the cross of Jesus Christ stands empty before us. We need to pray this as an Advent prayer because Advent prayer is an Easter prayer seeing WHAT REALLY
IS clearly in resurrection light. We need to pray this prayer as an Advent prayer, not a pre-Christmas prayer because an Advent prayer is a Eucharistic Prayer; it takes WHAT REALLY IS â€” ourselves, our time, our possessions, our loved ones, on this side of the grave and on the other â€” and with bread and water and wine finds them all assembled together â€“ living, singing, praising with us around throne of God and at the Lamb's great an promised feast.
Every time we pray "come, Lord Jesus" we acknowledge that, because we so often experience the absence of God, our WHAT REALLY IS is shaped by Death. That's the reality that our world is most anxious to deny. That's the reality the fear mongers and the fear-filled are so ready to have destroyed! But when we pray "come, Lord Jesus," we expect that WHAT REALLY IS is the reality God has already redeemed and is already reforming and renewing through the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.
We need to pray "Come, Lord Jesus," today as a baptismal prayer, Easter prayer and Eucharistic prayer exactly as we've been praying it -- or something like it -- for and with Trish Blohm for a long time. It's a good prayer. A loving prayer. A faith-filled prayer. A hopeful prayer. An
insistent prayer -- the quintessential Advent prayer which, like all Advent prayers throughout history, God seems to have answered too slowly -- until early in the morning on November 10 when the light dawned and Patricia Blohm's WHAT REALLY IS became everything she believed that life in Christ would surely be: Joy-filled. Tear-less. Whole and well and strong in God's praise.
WHAT REALLY IS for Patricia Blohm now remains, for but a while, our "yet to be;" and so we weep and so we wait and so we pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."
And so, with all the choirs of angels, with the Church on earth and the host of heaven, with Trish and Thora and Bill and all the saints, Jesus comes to gather us, to nourish us, to be with us at this table in this place for this brief and shining moment so that we can see WHAT REALLY IS transformed into what shall be and rejoice that in this time, in our time, we can now see that today is "the beginning of Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York