This Sunday many Christians will hear a little verse from the Gospel of Luke that will scare the daylights out of them.
You can read it here…if you dare.
Actually, go ahead and dare. Otherwise the rest won’t make a whole lot of sense.
So, here’s the thing about this little passage from Luke (and the ones like it in Matthew and Mark): it’s not literal, folks.
Now see, I say something like that (or write something like that), and I get people who retort back with a, “Well, how do you know?”
To which I reply, “The same way I know that Fun House is a play and haiku is a peculiar type of poetry: it’s a kind of literature. I know because not all kinds of writing, or speaking, are the same, and this is a particular kind. I know because the scriptures are full of all kinds of writing, and this is one of the kinds.”
It’s a particular kind called an apocalypse. That word, “apocalypse,” doesn’t mean “the end of the world,” by the way. It literally means, “the unveiling” or “the uncovering.”
And apocalypse uncovers a deep truth by masking the language in catastrophic, cosmic symbols. It does so to get you to pay attention. And if you take it literally you are doing the exact opposite of what it’s meant to get you to do.
So don’t do that. Don’t take it literally.
Apocalyptic literature says, “The sky is falling!” because humans, in our stubbornness, won’t look up unless we think we’re doomed. If you doubt the truth of that statement, think of how many times you see people staring at their phone while driving. Literally, their doom could be 10 feet in front of them, but they’re still too distracted by the shiny box in their hand…
And that’s kind of what apocalyptic literature is trying to get you to see: you’re asleep at the wheel.
The wheel of life. The wheel of the present moment. The wheel of need.
You’re asleep. We’re asleep.
“Don’t be caught unaware,” the ancient text says in the ancient text. And yet that’s exactly how the disciples will be found in the Garden of Gethsemane. And in the upper room on resurrection day.
And yet we are, constantly, blissfully even, unaware of the moments of salvation, of the moments of death and resurrection, that happen all the time.
The scandal of Christmas is that, well, if God can traverse the cosmos in the womb of a woman in ancient Palestine, then God can show up anywhere.
And Advent, every single year, tries to point the church, point you, back to that crazy cosmic notion.
And so we’ll start out doing that by pointing to the stars, the sun, and the moon, to try to snap humanity out of this lull, this daze, that we continually fall into because we are convinced that the world is not enchanted anymore, that God is asleep at the wheel, and that we’re on our own.
But we’re the ones asleep. The world is buzzing with the Divine.
And you are not alone.
Advent reminds me of this every year; my own personal little apocalypse.
What about you?
Wait…you’re still asleep? Don’t you know the sky is falling?
Falling through space and time in the pregnant moment, birthing salvation for those dead parts of your soul.
Look up, by God!