All posts in Advent

  • Waiting For God To Act

    Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem

    Waiting for God to Act
    Brian Zahnd

    Advent is for waiting. As we tell the story of redemption through the church calendar we begin our telling of the sacred story, not with doing, not with celebrating, but with waiting — waiting for God to act.

    Yet most of us — children of a high-tech, high-speed, instantaneous age — are not very good at waiting. It feels too much like doing nothing, and we are the driven ones who take pride in being busy. Waiting is not really our thing.

    Or worse yet, waiting feels too much like lamenting, which is closer to the truth. With the loss of a strong sense of the Christian calendar we have conflated Advent and Christmas into a single “holiday season.” But the truth is that Advent is quite different from Christmas as it carries its strong theme of prophetic lament. The world has gone wrong, justice lies fallen in the streets, and it seems that God is nowhere to be found. That’s when the lamentation of waiting arises in our soul: “O Lord, how long?” From Isaiah to Malachi there is a consistent theme of waiting in lament for God to act. All of the Hebrew prophets, each in their own way, composed their prophetic poems around this recurring theme: The Lord is coming, God is about to act, but for now…we wait.

    And yet the waiting is essential. For it’s in the waiting that our soul grows quiet and contemplative and cultivates a capacity for awareness by which we can discern what God is doing when he does act.
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  • Waiting for God to Act

    Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem

    Waiting for God to Act
    Brian Zahnd

    Advent is for waiting. As we tell the story of redemption through the church calendar we begin our telling of the sacred story, not with doing, not with celebrating, but with waiting — waiting for God to act.

    Yet most of us — children of a high-tech, high-speed, instantaneous age — are not very good at waiting. It feels too much like doing nothing, and we are the driven ones who take pride in being busy. Waiting is not really our thing.

    Or worse yet, waiting feels too much like lamenting, which is closer to the truth. With the loss of a strong sense of the Christian calendar we have conflated Advent and Christmas into a single “holiday season.” But the truth is that Advent is quite different from Christmas as it carries its strong theme of prophetic lament. The world has gone wrong, justice lies fallen in the streets, and it seems that God is nowhere to be found. That’s when the lamentation of waiting arises in our soul: “O Lord, how long?” From Isaiah to Malachi there is a consistent theme of waiting in lament for God to act. All of the Hebrew prophets, each in their own way, composed their prophetic poems around this recurring theme: The Lord is coming, God is about to act, but for now…we wait.

    And yet the waiting is essential. For it’s in the waiting that our soul grows quiet and contemplative and cultivates a capacity for awareness by which we can discern what God is doing when he does act.
    Read more

  • Bethlehem: Beauty and Brutality

    BethWall

    Bethlehem: Beauty and Brutality
    Brian Zahnd

    The Sunday before Advent I was preaching in Bethlehem. While there a Palestinian friend I’ve known for nearly twenty years and who shares my appreciation for Orthodox icons gave me the wonderful gifts of a Nativity icon and a Root of Jesse icon. These “gospels in color” now occupy a prominent place in my study. They have been especially meaningful to me during this season of Advent.

    Icons

    I also received two more “souvenirs” from Bethlehem — a spent teargas canister and a used rubber bullet retrieved from the street in front of the Bethlehem Bible College where some of my Palestinian Christian friends teach. Unfortunately, these sad souvenirs are quite plentiful.

    Teargas
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  • Matthew and the Big Story of Jesus

    matthew

    Matthew and the Big Story of Jesus
    Brian Zahnd

    The Bible tells a big, sprawling story of sin and redemption, of death and resurrection. It takes us from Creation to New Creation — from the Garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. Along the way, the plot sometimes feels lost and the story seems…stalled. But when we turn the page from Malachi to Matthew, the twisting plot of the Story God is telling is about to come into sharp focus. We’re about to meet the central character of the Story — his name is Jesus!

    A few years ago I read the Bible straight through like you would any other book. I was trying to read it as if I’d never heard the Story. There were moments of elation, but also times when I felt the pain of the Hebrew prophets as they nearly despaired. Would the promises God had made to Abraham and his seed ever come true? Would the longed-for reign of Messiah ever arrive? The wintery day I ended my reading of Malachi and turned the page to begin Matthew was during the season of Advent. I was sitting by a woodstove with a warm fire. Music played quietly in the background. As I read the words of Matthew 1:18, “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born,” the radio began to play the familiar carol What Child Is This? Tears filled my eyes. The Story was back on track, and God was keeping his promise!
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  • Secular or Sacred Time?

    Nativity_and_adoration_of_the_Magi

    Secular or Sacred Time?
    Brian Zahnd

    What is time? Time is the measurement of motion through space.

    A day is the revolution of the earth.
    A month is the revolution of the moon around the earth.
    A year is the revolution of the earth around the sun.

    But time as such is without any apparent meaning. Just a spinning planet with an orbiting moon orbiting a star…repeating the process for the past four and a half billion years.

    To give time meaning we need a story. Without a story time is pointless and nihilism beckons. (I am of the opinion that the violence that goes under the guise of Islamic terrorism is more likely a form of nihilist rage disguised in religious robes…but that is another subject.)

    For almost two thousand years the church has had the wisdom and creativity to mark time by the gospel story of Jesus. This is time made sacred. Thus the church calendar.
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