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  • Offering Presence This Advent

    ministrylet-webThe coming of Christ that we prepare for in the season of Advent is heralded by the Hebrew prophets with such beautifully familiar phrases as “the Lord’s house shall be established and nations shall learn war no more,” and “the wolf shall live with the lamb and they will not hurt or destroy on my holy mountain” and “the lame shall leap like a deer and sorrow and sighing shall flee away,” all prophetic words about how the Christ will bless the world through his Holy Presence. There was an initial hope that this would happen in the blink of an eye (in God’s time it might just be!), but what we’ve experienced is a slow march through the centuries and what feels at times like at best an excruciating process of God’s purposes unfolding among us. But as people of faith, we try to trust that while the arc of history is long, it does bend toward justice and the righting of what has been wrong, to reframe Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words.

    As Christians, our call in this in between time, from Christ’s initial coming to his final, is to offer Christ’s presence through our own bodies in the midst of tumultuous and violent times. This is something of what Judy and I and 550 other clergy were trying to do by simply showing up at Standing Rock. We had no illusions about our being the saviors because we were clearly not, but in so far as our actions were nonviolent, supportive of the oppressed, and a blessing to the earth, then Christ was present as well in a special way.

    But to bear Christ’s presence needs not be so dramatic, and is in fact the call of all the faithful in whatever spheres of relationship and influence we operate in our day to day lives. Especially now in this post-election time with many fearful of our the president-elect’s coming term, to “hold the Christ light” for one another is a critical practice. Can we take this on as a discipline during Advent? Can we offer a peaceful, hopeful, life-giving presence in situations of tension, not to fix or control or change the other but simply to be present in Christ? It might be presence around a family holiday table split by differing political views, or presence on the road when someone is raging, or presence at an advocacy day for the poor at the state house, or presence with someone hurting or sick or angry.

    This can be our response of gratitude to God’s gift of presence in Jesus Christ: to offer presence this Advent to one another in ways that bring Christ to birth among us.

    Peace in Christ,

    —Rev. Will Burhans for the Ministry Team