The following post was sent to me by Ryan Marsh, pastor at Church of the Beloved in Edmonds Washington, at the beginning of Advent. However I held it until now because it seems so appropriate for the middle of our Advent journey when many of us are becoming distracted by all the strident voices that want to move us in other directions away from the quieting presence of God.
I’m handing out pain killers tonight. You can take it if you want. You always have that option. But Advent asks you to wait just a minute, before you do, and consider this:
Painkillers don’t do what they say they are going to do. They might immediately mask the pain, but they don’t kill the pain. They numb our sense of the pain, but they don’t address the source of the pain. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t good reasons to numb your pain. And it seems like Advent brings a lot of these reasons to light.
Earlier we read in Isaiah about a time when everyone comes running to God to teach them how to live, about a time when the world forgets how to fight, a time when every tool to make war is repurposed into a tool to make food. And yet the present reality is that most of our children cannot remember a time when our country was not in two wars. The drastic disparity between what God promise for the future and what we experience now is hard to bear. And Advent seems to bring these differences out. So it makes sense that during the season of Advent we encounter so much pain-killing, like… excessive eating… excessive drinking… excessive shopping… excessive entertainment… the list goes on because your pain-killing is as unique as your pain. Making the connection is scary – but it could change everything.
Karl Marx said, “religion is the opiate of the masses”, “Religion is the people’s pain killer.” And that is definitely one of the many shadow-sides of religion, but tonight Jesus is calling us out of our opiate stupor. Advent is the smelling salts of the masses; wakes you up to all that is around you, wake you up to all that is within you even if it hurts, because there is some pain that is linked directly to your hope and if you kill that pain, you kill your hope. Making the connection is scary – but it could change everything.
There are times when we feel so drugged, so groggy, so numb that we need something to surprise us into hope. The salvation of God always comes as a shock.
This year, you’ll know it’s Advent if there is desire awakened in you tonight. You’ll know it’s Advent if you face the possibility of becoming horribly disappointed, but you risk to hope anyways. You’ll know it’s Advent if you are beginning to feel the discomfort of reality and you know that you were meant for more. You always have the option of taking a pain-killer, but this year Advent is asking you to wait, confront your pain, and be shocked by the closeness of your God.