Text: Isaiah 40:1-11, Mark 1:1-8
My childhood was spent in what would be considered a fairly normal, Christian, white, suburban family. In one moment my two sisters and I “dressed up” in old clothing to play “teacher” or “house” and in the next moment we would fight viciously over who had to sit in the middle seat of the car. Mother and Father cared for us rabble-rousing siblings in the best way they knew.
It is plausible (and, I admit) that my sisters convinced me to wear a dress or two but rarely did I lose the battle of the middle seat.
As normal and Christian as my family was/is my sisters and I did not grow up in a household or church tradition that celebrated the season of Advent. In the Christian tradition this time of reflection, from the Latin Adventus meaning “coming,” enables us as a people, a community gathered to pause, to in-hale, and ponder the coming of a child born in the filth of a stable. I am still learning to pause, to wait, and absorb the mystery of what is to come despite the various “middle seat of the car” battles that I continue in my young adult life.
In the last couple years I have begun to reclaim this Advent tradition if for no other reason than to ponder the extraordinary that “comes” from the ordinary, the sacred that “comes” from the profane, the redeemed that “comes” from the irredeemable.
And out of the desolate, profane, wilderness we await for that which will “come.” The prophet Isaiah foretold of a messenger who was to prepare the way--the voice of one crying out in the wilderness--a great redeemer. And John the Baptizer, eating locusts and honey, wearing nothing but camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist proclaimed the coming of a Messiah who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. In the wilderness space we simultaneously wait, amidst our despair, but we also prepare the way through the proclamation of our words and actions.
What is it about the wilderness that elicits our earnest waiting for the coming of the Christos? Is it that we thirst, we hunger, we cry out in desolation...and in our despair the wait for the coming of the incarnation seems worthwhile, hopeful even.
Ah, but how long must we wait? Each year on December 1, amidst Advent, the global community commemorates World AIDS Day. On this day we acknowledge the physical violence committed against, the verbal abuse performed against, the spiritual hostility perpetrated against those a/effected with HIV/AIDS in order that the love of God unfold in the present tense. We can wait only so long.
To know and be known,
listened to and heard;
you speak softly but stand so proud.
Our finitude, that dark illumined glow, is our mystery,
AIDS has a story, a face like yours, mine, ours.
It cries each night, dies each night,
wakes, grasps daylight—hope.
We are naked, each, viscerally so,
standing circled hand in hand.
we are limitless,
in our togetherness.
Facing, boldly, outward to the world;
orphaned, abandoned, crucified
Perhaps our pause, our waiting for that which is to come, in the time of Advent is intended to enable us to recognize the injustice and the work to be completed in our communities. The Advent season forces us to pause, contemplate, act in preparation--like John the Baptizer who proclaimed that the One more powerful than us is coming--to unite in solidarity with those living with or who have died from HIV/AIDS.
Indeed, we are in a season of waiting for the coming of the Messiah. In our vulnerable humanness we pause and reflect. Still, we simultaneously await the coming of justice as we enact justice and boldly proclaim the coming of the One who first loved the world.
In what ways have you, your family, friends, or other loved ones been a/effected by HIV/AIDS?
How has the season of Advent allowed you to pause, wait, and notice the world around you?
Commit to teaching yourself about HIV/AIDS and its impact in your community
Commit to educating your community about HIV/AIDS
For information on World AIDS Day
For information on the work that the United Methodist Church has committed to regarding HIV/AIDS
God, in whom we have faith, hope, and love, in this season of Advent remind us that we stand together as vulnerable creatures. Open our hearts and minds and especially our doors so that we might reach across the expanse of dis/ease and difference to be a people of grace and justice. We wait, awakened. We wait, awakened to act. We wait, awakened for the Adventus.
Joshua Clough is a 3rd Year Master of Divinity student in The Theological School at Drew University. A native of the Seattle area and graduate of Willamette University he enjoys running, the “great outdoors,” poetry, and writing.