Advent 2020

12/11/2020

FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN

I admit it, I got carried away. It was the early 1980s. The new thing was pizza delivered to your door. Wow! Of course, we ordered one – family size. And it worked. The doorbell rang and there was our large pizza. Picture this: as I enjoyed that pepperoni pizza, I looked around the room and felt a rush of satisfaction. There was Sherrill, strikingly beautiful, and 5-year-old Philip, contentedly playing with his favorite toys. Overcome by the simple joy of family life mixed with the aroma of the pizza, I blurted out, “Ahhh, this is as good as it gets!” 

Sherrill put down her slice of pizza, looked at me, and said firmly, “Well, it better not be!”

Looking back now I realize that she was right; I was guilty of hyperbole. Eating pizza from a cardboard box, even with your family, is really not the epitome of all that life can be.

Had he been there, C. S. Lewis would have agreed with Sherrill. He probably would have said to me, “My boy, you are too easily pleased.” I think he would have said that because that is exactly what he did say in “The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses,” a collection of essays on Christianity. 

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward … promised in the Gospels,
it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We
are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when
infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making
mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a
holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased. 

The Gospel lessons for Advent reveal and challenge my tendency to be too easily pleased. The first Sunday of Advent always starts the new year by looking to the end of time and the Second Coming of Christ. The Gospel lesson for November 29 was Mark 13:24-37. It was probably tempting either to avoid this passage or to dwell solely on the apocalyptic imagery (sun darkened, stars falling from heaven). But the key is found in verse 26: “Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.” For all that we do not fully understand, let’s not miss the big reveal: Jesus is our future.

And the Second Coming points back to his first advent. In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus is the Prototype for all humanity. The word prototype means the first (proto) of its kind (type). When we are tempted to settle for violence, hatred, hostility, greed, fear, and so on, Advent lifts before us the Prototype, the one whose coming will be with great power and glory. In the earthly life of Jesus we see the prototype of abundant life God desires for us all. To settle for anything less is to be too easily pleased.

In the Advent season God gives us a divine restlessness that makes us less pleased with the way things are in the world and in our lives – and a holy longing for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. I’d rather have God’s future than my past. What’s next? Prototype!