We are all on the way to the tomb just as Lazarus did, from dust to dust. But we will be redeemed by Christ just as Lazarus was raised from the tomb. When things seem to frustrate us, and when our prayers go unanswered, we need to be able to trust in God’s invisible hands working in our lives. Our ultimate hope is in Jesus.
We see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and we think we know what this means.
What we know, though, is what we want glory to mean. It is we who want success and a throne. This is the whole problem.
The practices of Lent—fasting, almsgiving, prayer, and reconciliation—invite us to recognize that we aren’t able to submerge ourselves completely in the cold waters of repentance. Despite how we might grit our teeth and plunge forward into the repentance of John’s baptism, we cannot truly die to ourselves. We keep coming up for air.
We can launch a car toward the sun and that is dazzling to our eyes. But in the infinite reaches of the universe it is a movement so small as to be imperceptible.
It is something like this, something on this scale, that we meet today on this Feast of the Transfiguration, in the face of Jesus Christ.
We are caught up in a will to destroy day by ordinary day. The crazy man in the synagogue is not crazy. He’s just the one who sees that there is a reason to scream. There is a power for evil, and it grips our own lives too. His scream is true. He sees the darkness in the ordinary day; he feels it in the anguish of his own distorted soul. And he sees that Jesus has come precisely into his darkness, to overturn it, to cast darkness out, to say in the place of anguish, let there be light.
This morning we have the star, and the magi and their faith; they live before us; we can see their hope and their wonder and their journey. And right here at the beginning of the story we hear the promise: this is the path that leads to joy.
And in the night, a child’s voice rises. In the night a baby crying, a mother singing, a father full of wonder standing by. One small family and a few shepherds in the quiet of the night—and in this ordinary, an explosion of light, the night sky lit by the angels of God, the armies of heaven singing glory to God and news of peace on earth. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. It is here that it begins—not with Caesar and his power, but with a mother who heard God’s word and said “Yes,” with the father who stood by her, and with the child who was born.
Mary was on all counts a person of no particular account. She was no king like David. And yet it was in her that God’s Word came to fruition. Why? Because she waited upon the Word, and when it came she said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.” She did not set out to build God a house. It was God who reached out and touched her, who claimed her in his Word and for his Word, who made his dwelling place in her.
Repent, because there is a problem, because there is a power of sin in your lives…And if we think that we are innocent—as, increasingly, the finger-pointers seem to think; if we think wrong is something only other people do, think again.
Advent is a time for people who need hope. Advent is a time for people who know that all is not well, who feel it in their heart of hearts, who wake in the night sometimes with a cry. All flesh is grass! My life is dried up; I do not know what it means anymore. Our lives are gone astray in all the holly jolly, and I cannot hear, I cannot see what is good.