Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
Lectionary Reading: 2 Peter 3:8-15a (NRSV)
As we wait for Christmas to come this year, we likely won't be going to office parties or school parties. We won't be Christmas caroling or attending pageants. Even our shopping may be subdued as we have to think twice about going to a crowded mall or store. It may be easier to drop the item in a virtual cart and enter the credit card numbers.
This particular epistle has to do with waiting on the return of Jesus to the world. Many in the early church thought the second coming would happen quickly. Thus, we have the famous line in verse eight reading, "with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day."
As we wait, now we are also waiting on a vaccine. It seems that we are also waiting for a new earth but not in an eschatological sense. When we do begin to share the vaccine, things will not go entirely back to normal, as much as we would wish for this to be so. But whatever happens, I hope that we can make righteousness the norm as verse thirteen projects.
In order to make this happen, I think we have to make sure that we don't confuse righteousness with being right. I know that I love to be right. Who doesn't? But sometimes we can choose to be right and not care about who we leave in our wake. When this happens, being right becomes idolatrous and has very little to do with righteousness.
The letter asks us to strive for peace. As I think about being right or being righteousness, I find that the latter may have more to do with striving for peace than the former. But as I think of peace, I think of Christmas and the peace we can all find no matter what has tried to disrupt it. The peace of Christmas will come if we strive for it.
And as we think about gift giving, we must ask the question, "What are you getting Jesus this year?" It is his birthday, after all. This would not be a bad time to mention our pledge drive. Making a financial commitment to Christ through the church can be an important part of righteousness because it means that I am putting my money where my belief is. I am declaring to the world that our faith is important enough to fund significantly. As we consider all the frivolous things we buy, a pledge to the church should be high on our list to get Jesus for his birthday!
But I also remember the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus asks us to leave our gift at the altar and first go and be reconciled with our brother or sister. Then come and give the gift.
So it seems that Jesus may consider striving for peace very important.
Maybe allowing Jesus to work in me, moving me toward peace with my neighbors - that is the gift he really wants. Of course, I could always get him both!
This Sunday, we will continue to voluntarily restrict our worship to online only so that we do our part to lower the curve and allow the hospitals and medical staff to get a handle on the case load. If you are ill or have a loved one who is ill, please email us and we'll include the names on our prayer list. As we unfortunately see our prayer list growing, this may be a good time for reconciliation and peace in your life. It is good to remember that Jesus will not abandon us to face this task alone. Maybe that realization and task is more about Christmas than all the parties or shopping.
Photo by zalgon via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.
All scripture quoted is from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.