Time for a Clean Sweep
Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent
December 4, 2011
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1
Advent is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ. — Thomas Merton
My theory about major house cleaning works like this: if you want a clean house, plan a party and invite some guests. There’s nothing like a deadline to encourage the reluctant housekeeper to get the lead out and start cleaning! If I don’t have any special plans, it’s easy to let the clutter pile up, ignore the dust bunnies, and deal with a little dirt. A mess isn’t all that bad if no one else sees it, right?
Funny how human beings are like houses in that respect. Without constant attention, our lives can all too easily become cluttered with distractions, and layered in dirt and grime. We become so overwhelmed by the daily details and petty little influences that before we know it, it’s hard to recognize ourselves in the messes we’ve made. What’s needed is the equivalent of a spiritual garage sale and some Holy Spirit super cleaning to set things aright again.
This is one of the reasons I appreciate the season of Advent. Now I can invite Christ into my heart and life. Knowing that his advent is near, I can heed the call of John the Baptist, Peter, and other prophetic voices to clean my human house and make ready to welcome the Lord.
My house and your house–our spiritual houses, that it–don’t have to be McMansions, and they don’t have to be professionally decorated. The humblest of hearts is what Jesus seeks. A clean space and a warm welcome is all that’s needed. Nothing fancy is required, nothing but readiness and openness to God’s amazing mercy and grace. Jesus is looking for a clean sweep, so to speak, a complete turning.
Peter, in the epistle lesson appointed for this Sunday, asks “…what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (1 Peter 3:11b-12a). He continues by saying “Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (3:14-15a).
The Son came into our world as a helpless, dependent child born under less than ideal circumstances. He lived as a refugee in a foreign land, and he died the death of a common criminal to conquer death once and for all eternity. Jesus is no ordinary king. He comes again and again, seeking and loving and comforting–both tender and strong. He will come and make this world right at the end in order for the advent of a new beginning.
We don’t know exactly how he will come or when, but we do know our Lord is with us now and always. The Divine One is ready to enter our humble hearts and work in and through us for the healing of creation. So, dear friends, grab your broom and sweep out the cobwebs that cling stubbornly to worn out ways of being. Dust off that tired hope you’re hiding. Dance that mop across the smooth expanse of your dreams, and make ready for the advent of God. Let this season be the end of all that needs letting go between you and the One who loves you so. Yes, this is the beginning of some very good news.
Many congregations will participate in a “hanging of the greens” this week. Consider bringing cleaning supplies (brooms, mops, vacuums, rags, dust mops, buckets, etc.) and placing them near the altar. Remind the congregation of the preparation that goes into cleaning God’s house and making ready for Christmas Day. For the offertory, consider using the hymn “We are an Offering” (Text and music Dwight Liles, © 1984, Word Music, LLC). Remind the congregation that in “cleaning house” during this season we make ourselves an offering to God.
In 2 Peter 3:11, Peter asks “…do you see how essential it is to live a holy life?” (The Message) Talk with youth about what constitutes a holy life. Who do they know, both in history and personally, that is an example of holy living? Consider printing pictures of various saints and talk about what makes their life holy.
If you have Boy Scouts in your congregation this would be a good Sunday to invite them to talk with the children about their motto “Be prepared.” Invite the children to consider how we as the church might use this motto to prepare for the arrival of Jesus on Christmas day?
Photo by 1024greenstreet used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!
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