I'm a pretty bizarre individual. A few years ago, in a fit of desperation, I tried to sign up for eHarmony.com. Yes, you read that correctly: tried
to sign up, as in, attempted and failed. Apparently I am such a bizarre individual that after taking their extensive relationship questionnaire, I was notified that I was not qualified to partake of their services since I didn't seem to fit into any of their boxes for what most people are like. Even a computer program thinks I'm a little kooky. So, as such a strange person, equally unusual things tend to capture my attention and be a source of enjoyment for me.
Among my other sources of enjoyment has always been the liturgical season of Advent. The combination of the inevitable march toward Christmas and the liturgical practice of lighting candles -- because, hey, who doesn't
like playing with fire?! -- makes for an all-around fantastic time of the year. But after listening to yesterday's lectionary texts (Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8) and a fantastic sermon at Kingston United Methodist Church, it occurred to me that perhaps another element of Advent that makes it so appealing to me is how bizarre it is.
In both the Isaiah and Mark texts from yesterday, the imperative to prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness is voiced. I've heard this exhortation a million times, but it never occurred to me until yesterday just how ridiculous it really is. In the wilderness
, prepare the way of the Lord. Go out to the middle of the Sahara desert, and prepare the Lord's way there. Head on down to Antarctica to get started on a highway for Yahweh. Mosey on out to the Outback and start a big construction project. This is sheer craziness. Walmart isn't building stores on top of Mt. Everest. No, civilizations build up where the people are.
So, what in the world do we make of this command to prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness? Well, for starters, I think it cautions us against buying into a Walmart mentality. Good capitalism rarely makes for good followers of Christ. But moreover, I wonder if this admonition is meant to foreshadow the absurdity of incarnation. After all, deities don't dwell with humans. Everyone knows that Zeus lives on Mount Olympus, not in Billy Joe's backyard. But the story of Jesus' birth and the miracle of Incarnation that it signifies make exactly the opposite claim! Not only is the realm of the divine breaking into that of the human, but the divine is actually becoming human and setting up camp in the wilderness that is human existence. This is absurdity at its height. Thus, perhaps the bizarre entreaty to prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness is a call to be aware that this Lord does not play by the rules of common sense. No, this Lord is an eccentric, wild, and deeply passionate God who will stop at nothing to show love to the most unusual of objects: humans.
This Advent season, may we go and do likewise. May we love the unlovely, remember the forgotten, and prepare the way of the Lord in the wildernesses around us.Have you ever thought of Advent or our faith in general as being a little absurd? What do you love most about Advent?