The First Sunday of Advent, Year C
December 2, 2018
By The Rev. Marilyn Zehr
Luke 21: 25-36
So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Luke 21:31
The Kin-dom of God is near. It visits in the night like the spirit presence of the white-tailed deer. I go out early to search for fresh prints in the previous night’s early snows. Like the kin-dom of God, the deer are on the move. It’s rutting season. Their tracks tell me that the does and last year’s fawns move in groups. The lone tracks that cross these are the bucks seeking mates. I am not yet skilled or scent sensitive enough to notice the signs the bucks leave on branches to attract the does but I know it is so. When they mate the doe and buck “enact a ritual of motion, touch, sound and scent before coming together.” (p. 14, All Creation Waits, by Gail Boss and illust. by David G. Klein, 2016) All is now pregnant possibility unfolding just beyond my vision in the night. All I see of their restless urgency are the tracks in the morning snow.
Advent is the time of pregnant possibility. Advent scriptures begin with Luke’s mini-apocalypse. There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding…(Luke 21:25,26) Though Luke may have meant the time of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the eventual fall of the empires that he knew, the Living Word that is scripture speaks a larger truth to our time as well. Today’s sea and waves might well be the warming oceans whose accelerated evaporation become behemoth leaden clouds that disgorge their soggy mass again to the earth in near catastrophic amounts with increasing frequency. Events around us are frightening and contemplation of the potential for societal collapse, catastrophe as probable, and extinction as possible could lead to depression, nihilism and apathy, as discussed by Jem Bendell in “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy,” or Rob Hopkins in The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience. However, both of these writers and others suggest from experience that our response to pending disaster doesn’t have to be paralyzing apathy but rather an old/new coming together in community, celebrating ancestors and enjoying nature together which then prepares us to respond with new creative energy.
In this scripture, Jesus also turns to the natural world with this parable: Observe the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourself that summer is already near. (Luke 21:29) How would the parable change if Jesus asked us to observe the advent of winter instead (for those of us in the northern hemisphere)? All he’s really asking is that we wake up to the obvious and trust what we see. What are the things that we as humans do naturally during hard times when we remember our true nature? We come together and get creative, just like the more than human world. Budding leaves on a tree, or deer during the rut, our restless urgent pro-creative energy may impregnate us with possibility.
As Advent progresses and winter deepens, the deer will cease to be active. They will shelter themselves in the cedar and hemlock groves: staying warm, keeping each other warm, and gestating their young. When spring arrives they will stand ready, heads raised, to fulfill their role as new life bringers in the kin-dom. Our redemption is near.
Marilyn Zehr is a 7th generation Mennonite settler, a Spiritual Director and a Minister in the United Church of Canada who seeks to be attuned to the Sacred through the earth and it’s creatures. Marilyn and her wife, Svinda Heinrichs, reside in the hamlet of Maynooth, Ontario, Canada and on a 64-acre piece of unceded Algonquin territory. This healing hilltop land was once on the shores of an ancient glacial lake known as the Shawashkong and now overlooks a vast river valley in the Ottawa River watershed. Follow our adventures on https://riseabove470.wordpress.com
Wild Lectionary, a weekly reflection on land, creation and environmental justice themes in the texts of the revised common lectionary, is curated by Laurel Dykstra, gathering priest of Salal + Cedar, Coast Salish Territories.