Monday, December 3, 2012

KeepingAdvent: "Neighborhood Watch"

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility

There have been some break-ins in my neighborhood over the last several weeks. Not home breaks-ins, but car break-ins.  Really I guess you would call these smash and grab operations: the culprit smashes a car window then grabs any other electronic device that can be easily scooped up. GPS devices seem to be quite “hot” item this holiday season. And I do mean “hot.”

As my family drove down our street Thanksgiving Day we saw yet another smashed car window.   A cement block, broken glass and some debris littered the road and it looked as if no one had yet discovered the deed.  We pulled over and John knocked on the neighbor's door. A very groggy young man came to the door in his pajamas. He came out and surveyed the damage. The two men spoke briefly, sadly shaking their heads.

When John got back in the car he reported that the car break in was not the worst of it. The young man and his wife had been up late into the night caring for their dying cat. It was just adding insult to heart breaking injury.

These break-ins are annoying. They are more than that. They are aggravating and infuriating: I remarked to my family as we drove away that we should form a little neighborhood night patrol and see if we could catch these rascals in the act.

Well, sure enough, I wasn't the only one who wondered how we could combat these frustrating works of darkness. We subscribe to our neighborhood list serve. All kinds of helpful and sometimes unhelpful posts are made to the list.

Someone posed a similar suggestion on the list serve Thanksgiving night: let’s organize some kind of watch and see if we can catch a thief? Before you could say “incoming” our inboxes lit up with increasing incendiary charges of vigilante-ism and elitism.  The merits of community watch verses private security companies were heatedly debated. Yikes! Trying to cast out the works of darkness without casting  judgment upon thy neighbor is harder than one might think.

In the collect for the First Sunday in Advent we implore Almighty God to “ give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life.”  I love the sound of that.

I want God to give me this grace to cast away the works of darkness. I want to find this armor of light and use it like a flash light to cast some illumination on the dark places and evil doers in life. 
Combating the works of darkness begins and maybe even ends in confronting sin in our own life.  Give us grace” the collect says ...meaning we cannot cast out sin but must have God’s help.

Advent is the time we are preparing for all kinds of break-ins. Yes, the break-in and break downs that come as a result of human sins, especially our own failures, but more importantly, Advent reminds us to prepare for the sometimes alarming but more often exhilarating ways that God is ready to break into our lives.

We remember all the times God has broken into the world to show us a way to start again to get back to the business of making peace, of beating our swords of hostility into plow shares of a community that lives in love and charity with our neighbors. We remember how God broke into the domination system of Pharaoh and led his people to freedom. In Advent we remember how God broke into the life of a peasant girl living in Judah; we look back to Bethlehem where God broke into human flesh.
And in Advent we also look ahead in anticipation of ways God will once again break into the course of human history. We can’t know the time or the place, just that it will happen. And we need not be afraid; just prepared.

The Rev. Anne Hodges-Copple.
Durham, NC
Follow us on Twitter @StLukesDurham

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