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Alternative Stories in a World of Noise

This Friday we will begin a season of Advent waiting by meditating on Luke 1:5-25. This passage is the first bit of narrative in Luke’s Gospel. It colors the rest of what is to follow. As we ready our heart and lives for the coming of the Messiah, let’s remember that this Good News threatens the competing stories all around us.

By the time most of you all read this post, Black Friday will be upon us. No one needs reminding what this day is all about, but some things are worth repeating. This is the day when retailers stoke in us an anxiety that can only be satiated by shopping before the sun comes up. This is the day when rational people are driven to trample fellow brothers and sisters for a half-price-whatever. Before the Church can get a word in, this is the way the season is welcomed into our lives. It is a competing narrative.

On Sunday we will do something radical. We will patiently wait for God. We will inhabit a story about an old barren Jewish couple, and how God begins to turn the world upside-down.

This is a dangerous story. It was threatening to the Powers at the turn of the century. Think about King Herod killing all those babies to get to this child-king, this Jewish Messiah. The Gospel writers are treasonous with their words about peace on earth through this little baby, because peace was already on earth. Caesar had brought peace through victory, peace through the sword, peace through war. Pax Romana.

This story is still dangerous today. It still disrupts our lives, or does it?

Can we truly say that we offer any disruption to this season? What happens when the Church becomes captive to sentimentality, unable to embrace the implications of Mary and Joseph’s boy? We argue over the spelling of Christmas, the fear of the term “holiday tree,” or who gets to play the Virgin Mary in this year’s Live Nativity. We celebrate exactly like everyone else, only we say we do it for God. We claim to know the reason for the season. What happens when our voice joins the rest of the noise?

The anxiety, the busyness, the buying?

What happens when we fall silent?