Saturday, December 3, 2011

Second Advent and First Snow

We had the first snowfall of the season for this part of Nebraska today. I’d been thinking about the lectionary texts for the second Sunday of Advent, especially Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8, and thinking about the geography of these texts: Why is the wilderness the place to prepare the way of the Lord? Why is John baptizing and preaching in the wilderness instead of in Jerusalem?

When we go into the wilderness, we leave behind the comforts of home and deliberately place ourselves somewhere where we might have new experiences and see things in a new way. Perhaps people report having profound spiritual experiences in wild areas not only because of the beauty and wonder we find there; it could also have a lot to do with leaving behind familiar things that get so much of a hold on us that they keep us from growing.

The first snowfall of the season brings a bit of the wild into our familiar routines. Plans get changed. Errands that seemed important suddenly seem less essential. Having to let go of some of our expectations for the day can be frustrating, but it can also be freeing. We find time to go out and clear a sidewalk and feel the snow on our faces, or we stay in and do some baking or work on a project that’s gotten crowded out by other things, or we simply look out on the snow and take in the beauty.

Our reluctance to let go of a way of living that has become so comfortable for us that we can’t imagine living any other way can keep us from being better stewards of the environment. Letting go of our expectations around energy sources, modes of transportation, consumer habits, ways of growing, processing, and packaging food, and a myriad of other activities may be frustrating and difficult for some people, but it will also free us to live richer lives that allow us to care for God’s creation and make a sustainable and healthy life possible for more of God’s children.

St.Francis cloaked in snow

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 1

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Mark 13: 28-31)

I took this picture of a budding tree in northeast Ohio the day after Thanksgiving. When the natural signs on which we rely get off track with shifts in the climate, we can’t use them to tell us about the seasons, to indicate what comes next. The effects of these seasonal cues becoming unreliable can be significant; the Associate Press today published an article by Gillian Gotora (Climate change hits Africa's poorest farmers) that describes the difficulties of figuring out when to plant crops as rainfall patterns change.

We do know, though, where we are in the liturgical year. The lighting of the first candle on our Advent wreaths, the lessons we read, and the hymns we sing tell us that Advent is here. We start off a new liturgical year preparing ourselves to recognize and live into the wonder of the Incarnation, of God coming to live among us on earth.

To help us stay anchored in the season of Advent, the diocese has provided a link to an Advent calendar. (See it here.) Some of the suggested activities to accompany the Scripture verses will get us outdoors to see some of the wonder of creation. Earth Ministry offers a Self-Sustaining Advent Calendar  that focuses on activities to strengthen our relationships with family and friends and nature.

The Advent Conspiracy has a similar focus, encouraging us to “worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all”. Here’s their video, which may help us think about how we want to walk through Advent this year: