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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent Aspect

When I was growing up, I did not know about Advent.  It had been swept away centuries before in the iconoclastic fury of the late reformation, bundled together with an inchoate bundle of artifacts and traditions under the category "Popery."  Any so-called Protestant still willing to hold on to such things fell into the class of "false churches," most notably because they continued the practice of infant baptism.

As a seminarian in my younger twenties, Advent came as a breath of fresh air.  It was a way of getting ready for Christmas that departed from the cultural liturgy of Santa praise, affluenzic consumption, and trumped up cheeriness.  It gave us more ways to be drawn back to the scriptures and the stories.  We learned that it was a time of waiting, a pre-celebratory season, a time to remember the difference between certitude and hope.  There were centuries in which tropes of Messianic promise took form in polyphonic harmony and dissonance (thanks Barry Harvey for this language).  The bluesmen and blueswomen that were prophets played and replayed these riffs as improvisational jazz (Jon Michael Spencer, Cornel West, and many others here).  It was music and language for meditation and imagination of God's presence and plan.

During the thirty or so years since that time, many Advents have come and gone.  In the intensity of graduate school, new jobs, and grading papers, the shine wore off for me and I just wanted to get the season over with.  Moments of interruption, when the Spirit would break into the monotony and stress would sometimes remind me what a gift the season of Advent could be.  Of course, other parents will remember with me, that in those years when Everly was pregnant with our three children, Advent took on a certain aspect, a recognition of the struggle of Mary who had fled her hometown embarrassed yet hoping for the word of Gabriel to be fulfilled.  And in the subsequent years when our three little infant children had their first Christmas, the wonderment of an infant child full of promise and blessing brought another aspect to Advent.

In this fifty-fourth Advent of my time in this world, there is a new aspect.  We have been doing lots of waiting this year.  We wait for the report on medical imaging scans.  We wait for the drugs to trickle into Everly's bloodstream.  We wait for the symptoms to start after each treatment.  We wait for the symptoms to subside again.  We wait to hear what the next step will be.  And we wait for a possible respite from this harsh mercy known as chemotherapy.  Shadows lurk in our going out and coming in.

Everly's work as an educator, a leader, and a world-changer has been intense, with long hours.  Now she waits to feel good enough to put in a couple of hours of activity during the day.  She waits for doctors and pharmacies to return her calls.  She waits for me to have the focus and drive to be her partner in all she is facing.  Whatever the future holds, she waits with confidence that she can share it with her loved ones.  Her siblings, her parents, our children, my parents, my sister and brother-in-law--we all stay close, treasuring the gift she is for each one of us.

Some of the triumphal theology of Americanism has eroded:  good riddance.  The idea that everything will always be the same as it has been sank into the sea.  It makes a little more existential sense why someone would ask, "How can we sing the songs of Zion now that all this has happened?"

So it is a good time to start anew in the Broadway household.  It is a good time to remember the stories of others who longed for redemption's song.  And it is a good time to remember that after waiting, the Word became flesh and moved in next door.

2 comments:

Mike Broadway said...

LET IT BE SAID OF US
by Steven Fry

Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion,

That with gladness we bore every cross we were given;

That we fought the good fight, and we finished the course;

Knowing within us the power of the risen Lord.

CHORUS:

Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song!

By mercy made holy, by the Spirit made strong.

Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song!

Till the likeness of Jesus be through us made known.

Let the cross be our glory and the Lord be our song.

Let it be said of us, we were marked by forgiveness;

We were known by our love and delighted in meekness;

We were ruled by His peace, heeding unity’s call,
Joined as one body that Christ would be seen by all.

CHORUS

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mike. So powerfully written and poignantly stated. We, of course, began the Advent season with a flourish at church yesterday morning and discussed Advent last night together with our student group. The theme that came out among the students was needing to hold together the darkness and the light of the season, not just focus on the light. So interesting to me that this was so pronounced among them. Sending love from Ohio to your whole family as you do that, too.

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