While speaking to a gathering of youth and young adults this past Sunday evening, I took the opportunity to reflect upon the fact that God’s plan to save humanity rested upon the faithfulness of an unknown teenage girl. This morning I came across a poetic passage in which Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153) depicts the whole of creation on tiptoes, listening in on the conversation between Mary and the angel Gabriel, anxiously awaiting Mary’s response. Continue reading Bernard of Clairvaux on the Annunciation
Isaiah stands as the preeminent prophet of the Season of Advent. Many of the most recognizable Scripture readings associated with the season are found in the pages of what is sometimes referred to as “the fifth Gospel.” These include:
“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD .’” (40:3 NRSV) Continue reading It Ain’t Easy Being a Prophet
The one year anniversary of Thinking After is fast approaching. Right around the time I started the blog, I preached an Advent sermon at Tyndale Seminary for the MDiv In-Ministry students. The sermon was one of my first blog postings. The theme of judgment sounds forth mightily from many of the traditional texts for the first week of Advent. Having been encountered afresh by these Scriptures, it seemed like it might worthwhile to re-post last year’s sermon, both for those who may have missed it and those who might like to read it again. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a sermon on 2 Peter 3, much less one that includes appearances by the Toronto Blue Jays, Westboro Baptist Church, Karl Barth, Glen Soderholm, a Pizza Pizza theologian, and that has the music of Josh Ritter as its soundtrack. Continue reading Fire is Still Coming!: Some Josh Ritter for Advent
For the last number of years during the season of Advent, the congregation of Byron United Church has assembled a life-sized nativity scene in front of their church building facing a major intersection. Each year, the manger is left empty waiting to receive the Christ-child on Christmas Eve. As we drove by the church on our way to visit family yesterday, it became apparent that this year there would be no place for the little Lord Jesus to lay down his sweet head. Where the nativity scene had once stood, there was now only the unseasonably green grass of the church lawn. Muddy tire tracks cut into the grassy boulevard were the only clue pointing to what had transpired. A few nights earlier a driver had lost control of their vehicle and crashed into the nativity scene. I’m not privy to any of the details, but I don’t believe anyone was hurt. The only casualty appears to have been the nativity scene. A crashed-out crèche may not quite reach the disorienting heights of the climax of a Flannery O’Connor short-story, but for those with homiletical ears to hear the scene is surely suggestive.
The following is adapted from a sermon preached to pastoral ministry students at Tyndale Seminary near the beginning of the season of Advent this year.
I didn’t come to ask how you’re doing these days
Didn’t come to roll no stones away no
I come to tell you the end is nigh
I come to prophecy
You wanted a messenger and I be he
Your heebie jeebie man in ecstasy
My eyes a blazin’ and my mantle dark
You better hark
The noted preacher Fleming Rutledge makes the point of reminding congregations in many of her Advent sermons that “Advent begins in the dark.” On one level, this is an empirically verifiable reality as we gather together during Advent to light candles against the encroaching darkness of the ever-shortening days of December. Continue reading “Advent Begins in the Dark”