Sundays at Harvard-Epworth
Communion Service at 9:00 AM In-Person &
Worship AT 11:00 AM IN-PERSON AND on Youtube
A Message from Rev. Mitch Hay
Even though Barb and I have been doing this Advent Season pastor gig for 35 years, it still catches us by surprise when the first Sunday of the season shows up after Thanksgiving. And most years, as we get ready for the preparing for that first Sunday of the season, I get shocked by the tone of the scripture readings. Most years my heart is ready for balsam candles and watching nostalgia-soaked movies snuggled up on the couch with my sweetie when the prophet Isaiah hits us with:
Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil,
your coming would make the world tremble.
Jesus’ words recorded in Mark 13 are even rougher, with the sun being darkened and the stars falling from the sky. What is going on?
The Bible is library of books written by a tiny people subjugated by giant empires. A lot of different empires: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome. Violence, oppression, fear, disease, and poverty were constant realities. And the constant hope of the people who gave us the Bible was that this year, God might break in, break through, shake up reality, tear down the tyrants and bring true peace, a deep shalom. “How long, O Lord?” cries the Psalmist. “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” cries the final chapter of the Bible in Revelation.
Most years these verses sound dissonant, cacophonous to my generally comfortable life. But this Advent feels different; I find myself nodding along to Isaiah’s poetry, to Jesus’ warnings, to Revelation’s invitation for God to come among us and make things better. This year, just barely out of a global pandemic, we are besieged by genocidal wars, violence against Muslim folk, Jewish folk, people of color, women, LGBTQIA+ folk. Places that normally feel safe, like a campus or a Vermont community, are now decidedly unsafe. And we feel powerless against the powerful voices that fuel the violence. We know we need God with us, among us, in us, to make things better.
We are, to put it bluntly, in a similar mindset to the Spirit-led folk who wrote scripture.
So this year I’m going to dive into the hope-filled anticipation of Advent a bit deeper than most years. I invite you to join me. Barb and I found a free online resource by Kate Bowler called “Bless the Advent Season We Actually Have” with scripture, prayers, thoughtful questions, and even a Spotify list for meaningful Advent music. Our Wednesday night hybrid Study and Spirit group will be using the resource throughout December. Please join us! (details in separate article below)
And, of course, we invite you to gather with us in person or online for Advent worship with your hope-filled siblings in Christ. I’ll leave you with this Advent prayer from Ken Sehested:
Blessed be your name, Beloved, who makes a way out of no way.
Draw near unto us, for we live in a season of darkened sun,
veiled moon, scattered stars, embattled news.
Heaven itself shudders.
Our bread is kneaded with sighs, and tears fill our cup.
Let the light of your countenance return, with the grain and the grape,
communion’s feast whereby we remember your purpose, your promise, your provision,
and we again rejoice in your illuminating presence and resplendent glory. Amen.