Advent 1C, 2012
Luke 21:25-36

A Liturgy is also available


The church has its own calendar of seasons.
And in that calendar a new liturgical year begins today.

The children from the Sunday Club have led us in
lighting of the first Advent candle.  The ‘hope’ candle.

From today, we begin to hear a gospel emphasis on Luke’s stories.
And a new symbolic colour is in evidence - blue.
        All of this is picked up in a resource collection we call the Lectionary.
        The Revised Common Lectionary to be exact.

But that’s also a problem for us who live in the southern hemisphere.
Because the Lectionary is a northern hemisphere document.
        Each of the church seasons was originally alined
        to the seasonal changes of the northern hemisphere natural year.

For instance, Easter is a northern spring festival of new life.
But in the southern hemisphere Easter occurs in autumn,
        a season of change, of ‘little deaths’,
        as leaves - millions of them - fall from ‘northern’ trees.

While Christmas, as many cards show, is a northern,
primarily indoors, midwinter festival,
        urging the return of the sun.

But in Australia Christmas is a midsummer outdoors festival
in the midst of the heat and glare of the sun,
        often bush fires,
        and the usual blow flies.

I have tried for many years to do a 'progressive christianity' rethink on the traditional church seasons.
But powerful conservative ecumenical forces
        have prevented any serious rethinking or reshaping
        of the Lectionary, from a southern hemisphere perspective.

It would muck up our so-called ‘unity’, they say.
So we are stuck with its ancient cosmology and seasonal irrelevance!

As Sydney priest David Ranson suggested some time back:
by limiting ourselves in this way, we are suffering “cultural colonialism”.
        And we risk missing or not seeing what actually ‘is’.

Let me paint a couple of pictures.

In the Central Highlands (Vic) from mid-August,
local wattles - yellow and gold - start to bloom
heralding a new dawn after winter's inactivity.

In the Central West (NSW) from mid-November
the smell of drying earth and blossom
fill our nostrils with bursts of Jacaranda purple.

So I guess what I want to suggest - even repeat - is,
        Advent is a time to ‘keep awake!’
        Ears tuned.
        Eyes open.

Not looking for some so-called spectacular
and mythical supernatural end times,
        which seems to be suggested by the biblical storyteller we call Luke,
        as he reworks some of Mark’s stories.

Nor in some ‘Frosty, the Snowman’ pop song imagination.
But by rediscovering the God-given “incognito”
(John Bell) moments
        in our ordinary Australian daily living.

In the ordinary... such as in flowering Wattle and Jacaranda
and the ‘click clack’ of two eucalypt tree branches
knocking together in the hot Summer wind.


The church has its own calendar of seasons.
And in that calendar, at this time of the year, an additional focus
in also given in the Lectionary.

Today is also the closest Sunday to World Aids Day (1 December).
We are told more than 34 million people have HIV/AIDS world-wide.
16.8 million are women, 3.4 million are children less than 15 years old.

Teens and young adults, particularly girls and young women,
continue to be at the centre of the epidemic.

We all know 3,000 people died on 11 September 2001
in the World Trade Centre, and over 200 in the bombings in Bali - 80+ of them Australians.
The world is still responding to those and other events of 'terrorism'.

Some of that world decided to go to war because of these deaths.
Others willingly followed, despite all the warnings and the protests.
        All succeeded in inculcating a much deeper level of fear
        than the facts justified.

But do we know there were approx. 1.8 million deaths of people infected with HIV/AIDS, in 2010?
And since AIDS was first recognised in 1981, nearly 30 million have died?
        Yet our political leaders spend more on ‘defence’ than HIV/AIDS.
        It is totally irrational!

People everywhere need to put aside their differences
and work together to face the challenge
        of slowing down the epidemic and alleviating its impact.

No individual or country is beyond the reach of HIV/AIDS and its impact.
People around the world hope...
for a cure,
for a vaccine,
for an end to discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS,
and for an end of denial.

In a newspaper report a while back, the journalist wrote of the then latest research findings:
"Worldwide AIDS infection rates are curving down.  People carrying the virus are living longer.  Life-prolonging drugs, which also reduce transmission rates, and prevention advice, are making a difference.  The counterattack in a long siege is showing results...

"But with modest success go challenges.  As AIDS treatment and care matures, critics want to shift money and medicine toward other problem diseases, such as malaria, pneumonia and childhood diarrhea, that are lethal and tameable.  In public health politics, the AIDS fight is too successful for its own good, making the effort a target in the competition for funding. 

"It would be a mistake to buy this argument in total and cut AIDS spending to pay for a new fight in other areas.  Weakening global efforts would lead to a rise in AIDS infection rates, reversing the progress made so far.  There's no question that new health fights lie ahead, but hobbling a successful crusade isn't good policy...  Other diseases badly need attention.  But the fight against AIDS should not be sacrificed.  The battle is still far from over".

Come to think of it, much of all this is also a very Advent theme.
        Because Advent is a time to ‘keep awake!’
        Ears tuned.
        Eyes open.

Not looking for some so-called spectacular and mythical supernatural end times,
        which was never part of the message of the historical Jesus,
        despite what might be suggested by the storyteller we call Luke
                      and his fundamentalist followers today.

But by rediscovering the scientific and ecological revolution
that only those species that adapt to their environments, will survive.
And the only end to time, is not in a literalist’s intelligent design,
but “that which human beings may make for themselves”
(Harry T Cook,  2009).

End-to-time stupidities such as:
starting wars and breaking international treaties,
ignoring the causes of global warming, and
exploiting the poor and the sick, for profit.

Ordinary people continue to live in hope.
But often it is against huge commercial odds and hostile forces.


The church has its own calendar of seasons.
And in that calendar a new liturgical year begins today.
World Aids Day.

A time to ‘keep awake!’
Ears tuned.
Eyes open.

By rediscovering the God-given “incognito” (John Bell) moments
in our ordinary daily living.
        By re-envisioning the “renewal of the world
        precisely at the moment that all seems lost.”
(R Pregeant/P&F web site 2006)

Thus progressive religion’s broad contributions to Advent 2012
are a kind of cosmic recipe for the functioning of all things.
• A recipe for dancing with and living in harmony with,
our world and the various environments that help shape us.
• A call to live humanly and humanely.
• An invitation to hope.  Not hope for any time other than this time.
Nor the hope of the political campaign "hope, reward and opportunity"
we have been subjected to for these past few months.

But hope for the fullest and the best that human beings
together in concert can achieve.

Because hope is much more than mere optimism or political opportunism.
        Hope is the stuff that gets us through and beyond
        when the worst that can happen, happens.