Year B, Second Sunday in Advent
“Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky”(Psalm 85:11). What an image of hope! And all because God “speak(s) peace to God’s people.” “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other”(Psalm 85:10). Our texts this week ring with a deep connection between creation and God’s revelation to the people who inhabit creation. We are exhorted by the prophecy of Isaiah, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). 2 Peter expresses the Advent longing and waiting for “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” with the coming of Emmanuel, God-with-us. John the Baptizer echoes Isaiah’s cry to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He embodies the very stuff of the earth in his clothing of camel hair and leather with his diet of locusts and wild honey. His ministry of repentance takes place outside in the wilderness and on the riverbank of the Jordan. In coming back to the earth there is an implication that the people also turn back to God.
In my congregation we will light the Advent candle of peace this week. We light the candle of peace because of the threat of nuclear war is still with us, because racial conflict in still with us, because the poor are being forgotten by our nation’s leaders, because glaciers are melting at alarming rates, because hatred is still so strong in God’s beautiful world made of love and light. The late author, Madeleine L’Engle, reminds me in her writings of the connective Love of the universe. Looking into the night sky at the stars of the Milky Way she ponders this connectivity that is not just metaphor but manifested in the very sub-atomic particles of space. “We are all God’s children” she exclaims, “human being, star, electron, flower, comet, planet, mitochondria.[i] As we light the candle of peace we echo the psalmist in our invocation of the power of God to speak peace to the people in the midst of conflicts that affect all of creation. Let us widen our awareness as we light our candle remembering that the power of peace is for the healing of every particle of the universe, not only the human beings.
Heeding Madeleine’s reminder, the prophets’ call to “prepare the way” of the Holy One who is coming to be one with us is even more poignant and compelling. Make straight the paths of our hearts even as we seek to straighten out the environmental, political, societal and relationship messes we have made. The all go hand in hand. God is manifest in the Word made flesh in Jesus, yes! AND God is made manifest in the literal paths through the desert, the rain forest and the tundra. This Advent let us pray to make peace with our earth, with the land as we seek peace among all people. We are all children of God!
There are two stories this week that invite us to ponder peace. The first is a short tale that is credited on the internet to Kurt Kauter in his book, New Fables: Thus Spoke Caribou and/or to Joseph Jaworksy in his book, Synchronicity. Here are two links where you can find the story. At link one, Stories for Preaching.com, you will need to scroll down through several stories of peace to find the story by the title below.[ii] At the second link, the story is title, “Nothing More Than Nothing.”[iii] The coal-mouse in the story is a species of titmouse or chickadee that has coal black markings on its head like a little cap.
“Tell me the weight of a snowflake,” the little coal-mouse asked the wild dove.
“Nothing more than nothing,” was the answer.
“In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story,” the coal-mouse said.
“I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow-not heavily, not in a raging blizzard-no, just like a dream, without a sound and without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto the branch, nothing more than nothing, as you say-the branch broke off.”
Having said that, the coal-mouse flew away.
The dove, since Noah’s time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for awhile, and finally said to herself, “Perhaps there is only one person’s voice lacking for peace to come to the world.”
The second story is one of my favorite Advent/Christmas/Hannukah children’s picture books! It is The Tree of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco. This family story is written from the memories of Polacco’s childhood on a farm outside of Union City, Michigan. Polacco’s family was one of the only Jewish families in the area. She tells of the Hannukah/Christmas holidays when her family reached out in the midst of Hannukah to help their neighbor family who were all stricken ill and could not make the necessary preparations for their Christmas celebrations. The exchange of traditions and love that take place between the families provides a strong picture of the understanding it takes to reach across cultural and religious divides to live in peace. You can download the book on to your computer or tablet, pictures and all, from a Kindle link[iv] on Amazon. One of the only times I use a screen in worship is when I can get a picture book on Amazon, I project the picture as I tell the story and that way the whole congregation is included.
Blessings on your Advent story journey, Jane Anne
©Jane Anne Ferguson, 2017 and beyond. Photos and commentary may be reprinted by permission only. Please find and tell the stories!
[i] From Bright Evening Star; Mystery of the Incarnation by Madeline L’Engle; Waterbrook Press, Colorado Springs, CO, 1997.