I entered parish ministry with a fair amount of idealism, particularly liturgical idealism. Inconveniently, the liturgical proclivities I picked up in seminary were not especially popular with my first congregation.
This became clear as a sleigh bell during our first Advent season together.
The television show Parenthood begins each episode with a snippet of a Dylan melody and the lyrics, “May God bless and keep you. . . . May you always do for others, and let others do for you.” Blessings are like blankets of covering and shields of hope.
My grandfather was at his 60th class reunion. During a round of golf with three classmates, one of his friends teed off. After hitting the ball, with his club still in the air, the man said, “Gentlemen, you’ll have to excuse me.” Then he fell to the ground, dead.
My grandfather recounted this, adding, “And it was a nice shot.”
Advent’s scripture passages are about genuine rescue. But I wonder whether we’re sometimes embarrassed to preach about genuine rescue because we are embarrassed to admit we’re having a genuine emergency.
When Advent comes, I worry, agonize and cry. Advent is daunting. Advent is my Everest. That’s why this year I’ve decided to add humor. I’ve taped a greeting card above my computer. On it is a cat offering the card’s recipient a gesture of love—in its paws it holds a heart-shaped hairball. When I’m wrestling with an Advent sermon and losing, this cartoon will explain why.