The author David Dark, in his book titled, “Everyday Apocalypse” offers this helpful insight:
“Apocalyptic literature cracks the pavement of the status quo. It is the place where the future pushes into the present. It’s the breaking in of another dimension, a new wine for which our old wineskins are unprepared” (p. 12).
I wonder if that isn’t a penetrating insight, not only about apocalyptic literature, but about Advent itself – it “cracks the pavement of the status quo.” There’s something on the horizon, this literature says, something breaking into our ordinary world that needs to be looked for, paid attention to, and be invited in. If you think about it in that way, then maybe we can better understand why it is that we start every liturgical year, with these apocalyptic teachings of Jesus, not to remind us of doom and gloom, but to invite us to pay attention, to reflect on how God is coming into the world, and how are lives might be different and changed in the here and now.
This of course, is the exact opposite of what our culture is urgently telling us to do, which is to get busy in the marathon of shopping and social engagements which leave us depleted and exhausted by Christmas Day. It is hard to believe that stores are now opening on Thanksgiving Day.
Perhaps you saw the outrageous incident on the news where at a Los Angeles Wal-Mart, a woman used pepper spray to get an edge on shoppers in a rush for Xbox game consoles. And while we may criticize the commercialization of Black Friday, it is interesting to note that some of the people are waiting for hours in line on Black Friday because they can’t afford to buy what they need at full price, and these teaser sales are incredibly helpful to them. The people standing in line on Black Friday are not usually the wealthy or the well off. It is those with far less income than we have who are most often forced to stand in those lines.
What are we to do? Can we even celebrate Advent in a culture so out of tune with the liturgical year? Is it even remotely possible in the month of December to give ourselves time to notice the “cracks in the pavement of the status quo,” to apprehend the ways that God’s future kingdom is “pushing into the present?”
Well, yes, of course it is, but it will require us to make some choices about what we will give our attention to in the days ahead. It takes faithful effort to avoid rushing towards Christmas. And so I would like to authorize an official slowdown for ourselves in the next four weeks. I invite you to make a deliberate, counterculture decision to spend a few minutes each day in quiet, to create space for Christ to come into your life in a new way. Take a ten-minute break a couple of times a day while you are at work and simply go outside and breathe. When your boss asks you what you think you are doing, just answer, “My priest has authorized this.” Our health and our future require a more contemplative way of being and seeing. Find a way each day to slow down and be quiet. Notice the cracks in the pavement of the status quo.
Listen to the full sermon here.