The Advent Police


Every year, I have to suffer through the admonitions of well-meaning liturgical Christians who insist that it is incorrect to sing (or listen to)  Christmas carols until December 24, because until that date, it’s not the *proper* season for it. (If you’re not Christian, substitute “the day after Thanksgiving” and proceed.) Not satisfied with self-righteous abstinence, they feel they must loudly – and often – announce this *truth* to others.

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:5

Furthermore, all who consider themselves Christians (and preferably, even those who don’t) had better join them. We must put on our sober faces, sit in the dark, and sing minor key hymns until Christmas Eve.

Because we all know that Jesus was actually born on December 25. That he advocated for dour expression and doleful song in the face of joyful events. That this was *exactly* how Jesus rocked a celebration.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” John 2: 7-10

One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?” Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. Matt. 9:15

The truth is, if Jesus stood among us today, he would never castigate people for celebrating, especially not the arrival of the Messiah. He would probably say something like: people are not made for seasons, seasons are made for people. (Mark 2:27)

So. To all my beloved fellow liturgical Christians: Honor the season in your way, and let others honor in theirs. Quit judging. Back off – not just from me, but from EVERYONE else, too. You see, you don’t know our stories. You don’t know our burdens or our struggles. You don’t know what courage it takes for some of us to choose to celebrate in a season that reminds us so sharply of what we’ve lost. You don’t know what solace can be found in a familiar carol.

Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matt. 16:23

I know you mean well, but you aren’t being the voice of Christ in the world, you’re being the opposite. Jesus doesn’t need Advent police. He needs people with open hearts, minds and arms to bring more love and less judgment. THAT’S how to celebrate Advent.

What the Heck is Triduum?

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALent is an endurance course, filled with hills & dips, with boulders that block & pebbles that turn the foot, and with the occasional breath-taking view. The last three days, Triduum, are the cruelest of all, for the path climbs straight up, straining our spiritual muscles to the breaking point.

It begins with Maundy Thursday, best known as ‘foot washing day’. Someone on a forum asked, “It makes me really uncomfortable. What’s up with foot washing?” Well, it’s about remembering that the Christ path is first and foremost about serving, especially those whose feet are dirty. It’s about taking our shoes off and realizing that our feet are dirty, too. It’s about washing others’ feet without judging. It’s about being humble, and letting someone else wash your feet – without worrying about whether or not you’re being judged.

And really, it’s not about feet at all. It’s the intimacy we’re uncomfortable with, isn’t it? But Jesus called us to be personal, to be intimate, to be truly loving with one another. We need to have MORE foot washing, to break through our barriers. Because if such an innocuous thing makes us uncomfortable, we can be sure we’ve placed even higher blockades on more important matters.

Good Friday reminds us that neither government nor society are just arbiters. It shoves into our faces the truth that soldiers, left alone, may torture and mock. That government convicts innocent people. Then and now, we should be horrified when anyone’s dignity is cast aside.

Jesus’ death was not ordained of God, not part of some convoluted plan to save us from a self-bound deity. His death was man-made, because then and now, we will go to any lengths to silence those who pull us from our comfortable delusions. Good Friday gives us the opportunity to contemplate our chains – and the chains of others.

On Holy Saturday, we sit in stillness with Our Lady of Solitude, grieving that which is gone. This is the hardest day- to just sit in our discomfort. If you’re like me, you don’t want to endure, you want to cure. But unless we understand the causes of our pain, we don’t correct, we only mask.

So, we sit silently with all who grieve, all who have lost love, homes, jobs, dignity, hope. We must understand their pain, because Easter resurrection will come for them only if we, the hands and hearts of Christ, bring it.

Finally, FINALLY, after this three day period that lasts forever, we reach the resurrection summit. Our Triduum tears have cleared our eyes, and we can see for miles.

A Follower of Christ

A Facebook friend posted, “To my friends who consider themselves Christians: What does it mean to you to be a follower of Christ?”

My response:

It means to proclaim the good news that God is with us; to follow the example of our brother Jesus and care for the poor, the sick, the ostracized; to travel lightly through the world, caring more about our world and others than about material accumulation; to pursue peace and speak boldly against injustice; to believe that Jesus’ life is the proclamation of the good news, his death is the world’s rebellion against it, and his resurrection is God’s love shown to us even in our rebellion: Love that transcends all.

What does it mean to you? I’d love to hear your answers in the comments. 🙂


crossIn a conversation where I expressed my belief that Jesus did not ‘die for our sins’, someone responded , “Maybe people don’t need Jesus to die for their sins today, but back in Jesus’ day, things were pretty barbaric. Do you think he needed to come and die for THEIR sins?”

Interesting question. Here are my thoughts:

Living in the USA today, we may feel that people were more barbaric two thousand years ago, but I doubt the Palestinians share our opinion, or the peoples in Syria, South Sudan and other war-torn parts of world. Personally, I’m not sure the USA stands on much higher ground than the Romans of Jesus’ time, given that we still employ the death penalty. It seems our modern world has just as much need for God’s atonement.

But what IS atonement? If you look at the etymology, its original meaning was reconciliation after estrangement. It was only later that it evolved to mean making some kind of amends. In other words, payment was not initially a necessary component of atonement – the emphasis was on restoration, not remuneration.

Restoration is what Jesus understood his ministry to be about. The first time he appears publicly in his hometown, he opens the scrolls and reads,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

In his reading, he extended God’s restoration to all (even non-Jews) without remuneration. That’s why the crowd then tried to kill him. Turns out, universal forgiveness and restoration wasn’t a popular message. It still isn’t. Even today, we insist people pay for that which is most basic to human survival – food, shelter, healthcare. Given that mindset, it makes sense that we would try to apply it to salvation, too. Then or now, we humans just don’t seem to be able to wrap our heads around the concept of ‘freely given.’

But if we didn’t need his death as atonement, then what was the point of Jesus coming at all? I think the point was Jesus’ LIFE:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

It doesn’t say, “that he gave his only son to be crucified and to die.” We add that in ourselves. Jesus came – was given – to proclaim good news, news that would change the heart of both religion and politics. And that news was: God dwells among us! His message was powerful enough that it frightened, not just the Jewish leaders, but Roman ones, as well.

So they killed him. But it wasn’t the end of the story. Humanity cannot overpower God’s love, and THAT’S the message of Jesus’ resurrection. Not even death can stop God from saving the world – and us.

Many Christians have a different understanding of atonement, one that involves Jesus as a sacrificial offering, as the substitutionary Paschal lamb. That’s fine with me; it’s why I love the Episcopal Church. We can stand side-by-side with our different understanding and still be in full communion. There is no need for estrangement – we can skip straight to at-one-ment. 🙂