Sunday, December 26, 2010

First Sunday of Christmas

Matthew 2
13Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” 21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. 23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

Suddenly, our leaders want us to be happy.

The Economist reported this week on a new trend in measuring national success: happiness. It seems that statisticians and social scientist became so consumed with GDP, unemployment and the inflation rate, they forgot to measure something as simple as ‘are the people contented?’

It turns out to be a rather complex question. There are lots of ways to measure happiness, and lots of factors that effect any attempt to take an accurate measurement of it. Some examples:

Women, on average, are happier than men.
More extroverted, and less neurotic, happier.
Married, employed, healthy, all these things tend to make you happier.
And being any age other than 46, the peak year for being miserable. Wait, what am I turning next month?
Finally, for today’s reading, having kids tends to make people unhappy.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph pondered that little gem as they packed up and fled to Egypt. Back when all they had was their little Harbourfront Condo, working all day and clubbing at night, did they ever stop to imagine that having a kid would make their life hell? Likely not.

The passage that Jean read for us this morning takes us abruptly out of the glow of Christmas starlight and into the cold reality of life on earth. It seems like a new story, but it is, in fact, a continuation of the birth narrative. Matthew’s telling focuses on Joseph’s dream life, and the extent to which God is managing the events as they unfold. It functions as the conclusion of the narrative we have recounted throughout December, and seems to answer at least some of the questions about Jesus early life.

Now, I can’t remember all the details of my theological education, but I do remember some caution in preaching class about preaching against the Bible. “Find truth,” we were told: find the divinely inspired stuff, and don’t just say things like “St. Paul was being a real jerk when he said woman have to keep quiet in church.” He was being a jerk, or someone was being a jerk in his name, but the lesson remains that preaching week to week on what’s wrong with the Bible doesn’t make for very compelling preaching.

The reason I have laid out this long preamble is the difficulty in preaching about the flight to Egypt. The rule of thumb is that whenever a passage relies heavily on quotes from the Old Testament to move the story forward, you have to take it with a grain of salt. Like an undergrad writing a last-minute paper, it feels too much like a collection of quotes, loosely tied together, in a vain attempt to get the assignment in before it’s too late.

Looking from another angle, passages such as this one seem to come with an agenda, with something to prove, and if Matthew’s goal here is to point backward and say “ah ha!” then he is trying too hard. In ten short verses we learn that Jesus must somehow come from Egypt, that (as predicted) Herod is monster, and that ultimately the family would end up in Nazareth, just as the prophet said. It functions as a bridge, giving us a little detail, and a little rationale, but mostly just explaining the journey from Bethlehem to Nazareth.

A First Nations elder, speaking about some aspect of aboriginal history said “I don’t know if it happened this way or not, but I know it’s true.” Truth, from this point of view, is something important that stands alone without the need for facts. And if you can understand the difference between factual and truthful, and allow one to exist without the other, your trip through the Bible will be much more rewarding.

Now, having established the principle that this story will be more meaningful in the realm of truth rather than the realm of the factual, we are left with the question ‘who’s truth?’ I recall receiving a Sunday School resource in the mail a few years ago, written by someone in the United Church, that described in great detail how Mary and Joseph were Palestinian refugees and had to flee persecution in Israel. Thank goodness for recycling.

One of the resources I turn to from time to time is a site called TextWeek, with snippets and links to various interpreters, the famous and the not-so-famous and how who they have approached the text of the week. Here is a bit of a sample:

From LectionaryBlogging: “Matthew's purpose is to lift up this truth about Herod, that he was a power-mad murderer, and associate him in peoples' minds with Pharoah.”
"Putting Herod Back into Christmas," Joy Carroll Wallis, "Herod represents the dark side of the gospel. He reminds us that Jesus didn't enter a world of sparkly Christmas cards or a world of warm spiritual sentiment. Jesus enters a world of real pain, of serious dysfunction, a world of brokenness and political oppression."
CrossMarks: "A possible application might center around forced moves: the elderly whose health or financial situation forces them to move from their home place; the young whose jobs and transfers force them to move from town to town; the expanding families who need to find larger housing, or clergy receiving a new call."

I particularly like the last one: I’m calling it ‘the flight to Weston’, fleeing from peril in Scarborough, with baby Michael floating down the Humber in a basket. Maybe we’re all just a little tired on the first Sunday of Christmas, and our interpretive faculties are dim.

I hope by now you’re not thinking ‘Okay preacher, you’ve been skating around the issue for a few minutes here, making fun of everyone else, so what do you think it all means?’ I guess it could mean any of the above, except of course for the part about floating down the Humber in a basket.

If preachers have spent the last few weeks thinking about God entering the world in a new way, and God becoming vulnerable and coming to us in the form of a baby, then the story of Herod’s madness and the decision to flee simply reinforces that vulnerability. We are fragile, and therefore the incarnation of God is fragile too, and he would do better to run away than stand and fight at this particular moment in time.

So it’s about vulnerability, and danger that too many leaders pose to their own people, but it is also about giving and receiving messages, and the power of dreaming.

The one thread that seems to leap out of this passage is the role of dreams. God has communicated with Joseph in a dream on four occasions so far in Matthew, three dreams in the last ten verses alone. In chapter one, Joseph is told not to reject Mary in her surprising state, but to understand that this is the Holy Spirit’s child and he will grow to be the saviour of his people and should be given the name Jesus. Here in chapter two, he is told in dream of the mortal threat Herod poses to the infant; he is then told that the threat is passed after the death of Herod, and he is finally told to avoid the southern kingdom of Judea in favour of the north.

The first thing to note here is the way God speaks. Back in the day, back in the Old Testament, God spoke constantly. God spoke directly to the people, sometime to converse, sometimes to argue, sometimes to comfort or condemn. God spoke through prophets: telling them in advance what to say and them sending them out into the midst of a hostile people. It has been noted with some power that God stops speaking in Job 38-39 (speaking from the whirlwind) and doesn’t speak aloud again until Jesus emerges from the water of the Jordan to receive God’s blessing. That may be true, but in Matthew we learn that God is very busy speaking in dreams.

Funny thing, dreams. They appear random in pattern and meaning, they can have an absurd quality to them, or they can seem to be simply reliving what has already happened. Sometimes they seem to further what has happened, or highlight a particular moment, for good or for ill. Freud called dreams “wish-fulfillment,” the unconscious working something out on our behalf, going places our conscious mind does not wish to go. They certainly seem to reveal things we cannot face, whether an unresolved conflict, a point we never got to make, or a do-over, something we all need from time to time.

In Matthew’s telling, God may not be speaking aloud at this moment in time, but God has much to say while Joseph sleeps. And half the story, of course, is Joseph’s willingness to listen. More often than not we wake up, shake off the dream, and say to ourselves ‘whoa, that was crazy.’ Joseph learned to listen, refusing to think the worst about the young woman he was betrothed too, following advice to safety, following it back, and ending up in the right place in the face of Judean realpolitik.

For you and me, then, the question is how do you interpret and how do you heed. If we assume that dreams may contain the prompting of the Spirit, how do we know what to follow and what to set aside. Some are obviously the crazy reworking of a bad day, or maybe too much spicy food, but I am certain there are moments when our dreams reveal something God wants us to know, or at least to ponder.

Matthew locates us in the season of dreaming, where listening is encouraged and action is required. May we always remain open to the bidding of the Spirit, and may we make ourselves vulnerable to the message God brings. Amen.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve, 11 pm

John 1
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Things in Latin just sound better. We chickened out at 7 pm, choosing not to sing “Adeste Fideles” and sing the English words to “O come all ye faithful” instead. I scanned the crowd for any classicist rebels, but there were none to be found. There just aren’t enough Latin speakers in Weston anymore.

Latin never really goes away, of course. The Vatican still functions in Latin, proving that changing popes 265 times doesn’t mean you’re going to change the “lingua franca” that everyone is used to. And besides, if God speaks Hebrew, surely the saints in light are speaking privately in Latin.

Further proof that Latin is popular: the humble tattoo. Go home and google the phrase “incorrect Latin tattoos” and you will find countless websites dedicated to the kind of mistakes that happen when people turn to the internet for translation services rather than their local classics department.

“In principio erat Verbum,” Jim read a few minutes ago, “In the beginning was the Word.” John 1 is the other Christmas reading, call it the late night reading, when we put away the angels and shepherds and get to the heart of the matter. And getting to the heart of the matter is John’s forte.

John is less nativity, more signs. He is less travelogue, more tableau. He is less description and more conversation. He is all theology all the time, and he never tries to be anything else. The longest conversations in the New Testament occur in John, with the woman at the well, and Nicodemus, and even in risen form, with his disciples, cooking a simple meal.

You might say the conversation begins tonight. How fitting then, that John says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is God’s conversation starter, the first word in the gift we call incarnation and the last word in human need.

By verse 14 we hear the good news that “et Verbum caro factum,” translated “the Word became flesh” and dwelt among us. Caro is flesh, or meat, the same word that gives us “carne” and “carnivore.” Makes it all seem a bit more real, doesn’t it? And “factum” is translated “became” as in “became flesh” but it also means “achieved” or “accomplished,” such as ‘the Word achieved flesh and dwelt among us.’

What if we imagine human form as an accomplishment, something God wanted to achieve tonight? What if it was less choosing human form and more achieving it: regarding incarnation as an accomplishment, and our way, the way of flesh as the prize. Hear the Latin in the word “incarnation,” literally enfleshment?

God begins in conversation, achieves enfleshment, and takes pains to dwell in our midst. We receive the gift of incarnation, God-with-us, but we ourselves are the prize. It is humanity God wants, keeping the conversation going, with the next word always being “love.” Amen and amen.

Christmas Eve

Luke 2.8-20
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

If you’re looking for the real grinch who stole Christmas, look no further than Oliver Cromwell. In the middle of the seventeenth century, during Parliaments dominated by Cromwell and his Puritan friends, Christmas was banned.

The logic was somewhat sound. Christmas, they argued, was becoming less religious and more secular in nature. Too Roman Catholic, they argued, with the “mas” of Christmas being the first clue. And too unruly, they argued, with Christmas Day just the beginning of twelve days of wanton celebration unrelated to the Lord’s birth.

And so they banned Christmas. Caught in worship on December 25th and you faced a stiff penalty. Close your shop on December 25th and the Lord Mayor would assess another penalty. Even the army got into the act, raiding homes and confiscating cooked meats and other obvious signs of celebration. And Parliament set the ultimate example, meeting on December 25th to reinforce their belief that this was simply one more day on the calendar.

Eventually, the madness ended. With the so-called Protectorate swept away by the return of Charles II, all legislation passed under Cromwell was considered null and void. People were free once more to celebrate openly and the public celebration of Christmas returned to England.

It’s a lot of fuss for something that began so simply. Setting aside for a moment all the noisy shepherds, the angel choirs, and all that loud proclaiming, the birth of Jesus was far from controversial. Then, as now, babies were born everyday in the empire belonging to Rome. Poor and humble, rich and connected, people were having babies. Maybe an important baby might have earned a notice in the Roman Times (New Times Roman?) or maybe noted in some written chronicle, but probably not.

Back then, you see, it was all about the grown-ups. Childhood hadn’t been invented yet, and infant mortality being what it was, society seemed to take a wait-and-see approach. You become an adult when you were old enough to lift a shovel or a sword, and off you went to do the work that empire demanded.

Even among the high-born, the wait-and-see approach dominated. Emperors had children, and children grew up to rule, but as often as not the children of emperors never found their way to the throne. It was all about who you knew, how you were regarded, and how creative you could be in creating your own reality. A quick example would be Drusus, son of Tiberius, set to become emperor but poisoned by his wife and her lover instead. But their bid for power failed, and eventually cousin Caligula took the throne instead.

Back in Bethlehem, things were dull by comparison. This child was a threat to no one, at least not yet, and would be allowed to thrive and grow up into adulthood, and only then become the threat he was born to be. Someday, the one “born a child and yet a king” would be given the title Son of God, the very same title that Augustus demanded and was given, and so you see the beginning of a problem. A Roman “son of god” felt strongly about being an only child, and was not inclined to share. But that would be jumping ahead to the spring.

Another thing common between Bethlehem and her contemporaries in Rome was a love for the theatrical: “Do not be afraid,” the angel said, “Today I bring you good news of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” A heavenly host gathered and sang, shepherds gathered and wondered, and a holy family basked in heavenly light. This is divine theatre, with an ensemble cast that will only grow and diversify as the story unfolds. Call this Act One, Scene One, with the stage already set for Sunday when we see Scene Two.

This past week I heard an interview with Bruce Dow, one of the stars of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Bruce spoke in general terms about acting, and how he approaches each role. He said two things: the first task of an actor is to uncover the truth at the centre of the play. What does it mean? What message is the play ultimately trying to communicate to the audience?

The second is this: The actor asks ‘what does my character need?’ What need will be met through the unfolding of this story? And how will this happen?

He could have been speaking from Bethlehem, rather than some studio on Front Street.

If the events unfolding in Bethlehem were theatre, than the answer to the first question is incarnation. The truth at the centre of the play is God’s desire to be human. We were born in the image of God, but that’s not a real connection, real like birth and all the messiness that comes with being human. God wanted more, and the truth at the centre of the play is God’s desire to feel pleasure and pain, to feel connection and loss, to feel the sun on a human face and understand what life on earth is really like. Incarnation is truth, and the truth is God’s desire to know us completely.

And what does his character need? What does God need, having gone to all the trouble of entering human experience? To be loved. We sing “come let us adore him” and so this is our chance. God needs love as we need love, because without love this baby will fail to thrive and the entire project of incarnation will fail. Remember the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism? (That question was rhetorical)

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

And all the glorifying and all the enjoying begins tonight. It is what we were made to do, it is our chief aim, to love this child-king and enjoy him every day. May it always be so. Amen.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Advent II

Matthew 3
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’* 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” ’
4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 ‘I baptize you with* water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with* the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

Last week, my son’s girlfriend described my brother and me as two of the coolest old people she knows.

Do I laugh or cry? Do I feel joy or sorrow? How do I rationalize this bittersweet turn of events? Surely a 21 year-old can be trusted to determine who is cool (and who is not). But can she be trusted to determine who is old? No, she can’t. So I’ll take the descriptor, and wear it for a while, but my secret wish is to be edgy. Who doesn’t want to appear at least a little edgy?

Sadly, there is generally nothing edgy about being a minister. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to develop a sense of edge. I tried a leather jacket for a while, and just ended up looking like a middle-aged guy in a leather jacket. No one has ever said “watch out for that guy, he’s my minister,” at least not to my knowledge. And so, with my alarming lack of edge, I give you someone truly edgy, the Rev. Leslie Spracklin.

Leslie Spracklin had edge. We learned about Rev. Spracklin on a recent trip to Windsor, Ontario, as we were treated to a sample of the Rum Runner’s Tour of various Prohibition-era sites in and around the city. Carmen’s Aunt Marilyn has a starring role in the tour, with a dramatic turn as a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the storyteller who relates the tale of the infamous “Fighting Parson.”

Beginning in 1916, Ontario experienced 11 longs years as a “dry” province, where the sale and consumption of alcohol was illegal. Luckily for Windsor, and specifically the neighbourhood called Walkerville, the manufacture and export of alcohol was still perfectly legal. You just couldn’t sell it locally, or across the river in Detroit. Cuba was still buying Canadian rye, and became the destination of choice—and so a strange fiction developed where boats would cast off from Windsor in the morning and somehow make it back from Cuba by the afternoon.

This, of course, made temperance ministers like Spracklin fighting mad. He applied to the province to become a “special temperance enforcement officer” with the right to hire a posse and the right to carry a gun. Week by week, he would rail from the pulpit of his Methodist church, denounce the local rumrunners who became instant millionaires from the illegal trade, and flash his gun to accentuate the point. Leslie Spracklin had edge.

For months, the temperance battle raged: Spracklin would raid and destroy a tavern, rumrunners sprayed the manse with bullets, and in a brief confrontation with the most notorious rumrunner in town, Rev. Spracklin shot him dead. The reverend claimed self-defence, was acquitted twice at trial, and somehow lost the confidence of his congregation. He moved on to Michigan and found another congregation, one more responsive to his unique and edgy style.

From another bully pulpit, someone else with edge said these words:

‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Jesus and John make an interesting pair. One says “consider the lilies” and the other calls his guests at the riverside a “brood of vipers.” One says we need to have the faith of a child, and the other is hacking down rotten spiritual trees and casting them into the fire. And yet, John the Baptism gains the remarkable honour of baptizing Jesus, the starting point of any recounting of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

This baptism by John, in the Jordan, has caused no small amount of scandal for the church. In part, I’m leaping ahead a month, but it remains key to understanding John to ponder his role in the Gospel narrative. For centuries, theologians have tried to imagine why the Son of God would choose to submit to baptism by John. Why participate in an upside-down ritual whereby the source and inspiration of every baptism would slip below the water himself? It simply makes no sense that the incarnation of God, the author of every sacrament, would enter a ritual that would seem to belong to him alone.

I would argue that John is Jesus’ edge. Jesus forgives sin, he tells parables, and he would much rather eat and drink with his friends. Sure, he has the occasional moment of edge, at least among those who would turn the temple into a Money Mart, but by-in-large Jesus just doesn’t have the edgy exterior of John the Baptist. In this sense they need each other, John to do the anger work, and Jesus to forgive everyone who deserves the anger.

Maybe this is best illustrated late in Matthew (21) when Jesus shares the Parable to the Two Sons:

28 ‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” 29He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father* went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

There are two things to notice in this passage: the first is that even when Jesus is confronting his arch-nemesis (self-righteous religious people) he can’t bring himself to fully condemn them. Tax-collectors and prostitutes are going to the Kingdom of God ahead of the self-righteous, and not in their place. He wants to have edge, and maybe cast someone into the fire, but he just can’t seem to bring himself to do it.

Second is the neat summary of John: “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him…” This, then, is the job description of “the voice crying in the wilderness.” John is the cry for purity, for holiness, for a baptism of repentance. Maybe it was John that Jesus had in his mind’s eye when he said “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”


Down on Gerrard Street, very near to Yonge, stands a very impressive and very large brick building that is now the home of Covenant House, the largest youth shelter in Canada. If you look up, near the very top of the building, you will see the name of the original owner of this edifice, the long departed Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. The building served as their Canadian headquarters, and it was at least as large as United Church House, and certainly surpassed the size and clout of every other social service agency in the country. By 1921 the WCTU peaked at 350,000 members worldwide, and has since all but disappeared.

If I asked the pulpit, it might reveal to me the last time a temperance sermon was preached here. I try to avoid hypocrisy, so I won’t be preaching one anytime soon, but I know for a fact that every Methodist and later every United Church pulpit pronounced the evils of alcohol. Call it our early righteousness period, when the church could be counted on the rage against the things considered a corrupting force in society, whether it be cards, or rum, or divorce, or shopping on the Lord’s Day.

One by one these evils fell away, sometimes beginning in society and spreading to the church and sometimes the other way around. However it happened, and whatever the issue, the church could be counted on to be the home of righteousness and usually self-righteousness too.

Again, we are left with the question ‘why share readings that call for righteousness when the church seems to have headed in another direction?’ Again, we get two answers. The first is we matured, and we determined that righteousness had less to do with penny-ante poker and more to do with injustice. The second is that we lost our stomach for old-style righteousness and decided that we are forgiveness people instead. We chose Jesus over John, without ever asking the question if there was really a choice to make.

As I wind up here, I don’t want you to get the impression I’m advocating a return to the old days of excessive righteousness. Once and a while some conservative Christian will ask me “Are you United Church people against anything?” No edge there. “We are opposed to gambling and nuclear war,” I will tell them, “and I can proudly say I’ve never started a nuclear war.”

I guess I’m advocating a return to tension, an Advent return to the days when we asked ourselves if our choices are good and right for ourselves, for our neighbourhood, and for society at large. I’m advocating a tension whereby we never say something is “inevitable” or “the way of the world,” much in the way that the proponents of Sunday shopping in PEI have been saying just last week. I’m advocating the occasion look back, to a place where maybe we weren’t so wrong after all, without citing any examples, and just leaving it to your imagination.

Advent is about holy tension, the John-Jesus divide between judgement and forgiveness, and the place of both in our life together. It is about preparedness, and walking the way, and looking forward to the birth of new life, and what that means for each of us. Thanks be to God, Amen.