Scripture: Matthew 24:36 (NRSV)But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Here's the thing about Advent - and Christmas, for that matter. They come every year. We know what to expect. The Christmas lights will appear shortly after Halloween. Appeals to the pastor to sing Christmas carols will kick in right after Thanksgiving. Traffic and long lines will accompany the annual flurry to buy gifts, wrap gifts, mail gifts. Maybe you'll have to contend with an office Holiday Party, or a 'Secret Santa' swap. Maybe you'll be asked to mediate the annual discussion between deacons and trustees about whether real candles should be allowed in the sanctuary. And maybe you love all this seasonal stuff. Maybe the smell of evergreen, the flicker of candlelight and the words of the prophets renew your spirit, every December.
On the other hand, maybe you anticipate the season with dread. Because that family member is going to show up, and you just know that sooner or later he will bring up the presidential election and his crazy political views. Or she will drink too much and start criticizing everything from your children to your cooking, and you will feel utterly inadequate… again. Or because you know that your former friend will refuse your invitation to meet over eggnog. Or because every December you slide into a deep blue funk, uninspired by either lights or carols, trapped in an old, familiar grief. You just know it, because it happens every year…
But what if you are wrong? What if we don't have any idea what's coming? What if we could be just as surprised as those shepherds were, on that chill, dark night, when the sky suddenly erupted with a whole throng of angels? What if that friend actually said, "Yes," and, "I'm sorry," and then offered to bring the cookies? What it that family member arrived with someone she met at her twelve-step meeting? And then volunteered to wash the dishes? What if the deacons and the trustees put aside their disagreement about candles long enough to go caroling… together? What if joy crept into your heart when you weren't looking? What if God showed up, right here, in the flesh? No one knows what will happen this December – not the angels, not the Son, surely not me. But there could be a miracle.
Prayer:All-knowing God, this Advent Season, surprise me. Amen.
Rev. Alison J. Buttrick Patton is pastor of Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC, in Westport.
November 23, 2016