This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the epicenter of Christian tradition. It is when two thousand years of witnesses claimed that something utterly unique happened on the earth. God was unveiled in human form, not in a palace in Rome to royalty, but to peasants in a stable among barn animals.
Advent sets the stage for all revelation in Christian tradition. It shows us that God is revealed in surprising ways and that God shows up in areas of society we might least expect, such as among the poor, among lepers, among tax collectors… There is a consistent theme throughout the Gospels of Jesus’ favor for the people society tends to disfavor. Jesus also shows us what servant leadership and nonviolence look like. In a world where the military and “might-makes-right” were the respected modes of operation, Jesus inaugurates a new way. Surprisingly, unlike the heavy handed authorities of his time, Jesus teaches by example and by compassion, not my coercion and fear. Also unlike the chariot riding Roman Senators in their finery, Jesus wrapped a towel around his waist and washed his disciples’ feet.
Jesus sees the world holistically, where no one is cast out—where all have something of value to contribute—where all are made in the image of God. Jesus’ holistic vision encourages us not only to seek reconciliation with the lost in our society, but to make peace with the lepers within, with those aspects of ourselves that we hide, suppress, and deny. All outcasts including the aspects of ourselves we cast out, are called back, and in the homecoming they are healed and restored.
Over and over again in the Gospels this is Jesus’ way—to accept the unacceptable, to forgive the unforgivable, to love the unlovable. And in the very act of forgiveness, acceptance, and love people are transformed. The disciples are transformed from a rag-tag group of illiterate fisherman into international apostles who take the Gospel throughout the world. The blinding light of Jesus causes the militaristic Saul of Tarsus to fall from his high horse and resurrect as Saint Paul, who turns away from the sword to persuasive words of inclusion, compassion, and transformation. Then through the ages, the saints in their unique ways transform into some fraction of the light of Christ, to further the mission of faith, hope, and love in the world.
It all started with Advent!