On Monday morning I logged-in on my Facebook account and saw this status update from our new Bishop of the New England Synod, ELCA – Jim Hazelwood, “The time between Christ the King Sunday and Advent feels like no man’s land” (11/26/2012 – 8:08 a.m.).
My response was, “Yep. I was just looking at the days between. It starts with Cyber Monday.”
There were better, humorous responses after I made mine; including one quoting the band The Grateful Dead by my friend Pastor Dave Dalzell and others suggesting that in their honor we should use tie-dye as the liturgical color for no man’s land. (That is the creative, in-depth, thoughtful insight you can only hope for on the Monday after Thanksgiving…)
“There are days, there are days and there are days between.”
A few minutes prior I was looking at the days between Thanksgiving and the start of Advent this year. Many even have titles:
Small Business Saturday
Christ the King Sunday
Then I thought of the upcoming days and it really is a wasteland:
Tuesday – nothing. No man’s land
Wednesday – nothing either. No man’s land. (Charlie Brown’s Christmas is on, however. Check your local listings. It is supposed to be on at 8:00 p.m. here.)
Thursday – St. Andrew (November 30 – but we don’t celebrate this saint day, so it might as well be no man’s land)
Friday – nothing again. No man’s land
Saturday – no man’s land
Sunday, December 2 – First Sunday of Advent or Advent 1. Finally!
According to New Advent – the online Catholic Encyclopedia –
“According to present  usage, Advent is a period beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and embracing four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as 27 November, and then Advent has twenty-eight days, or as late as 3 December, giving the season only twenty-one days.” (Online Available: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01165a.htm )
This means that some years (depending on the calendar) we celebrate in a week’s time – Christ the King, Thanksgiving (in the United States), and then Advent 1. Other years (like this one – 2012) Christ the King Sunday falls after Thanksgiving, giving the appearance of an “extra” week prior to Advent. Hence, it feels like a week of no man’s land. However, the perception of an “extra” week is somewhat misleading. The fourth Sunday of Advent or Advent 4 comes only a day before December 24 on Monday, so as much “extra” time as it feels like no – it will feel crunched up and perhaps a bit rushed at the end as Christmas steadily approaches. Either way, on any given year – the total time that can be spent in Advent is three or four weeks. As it happens in 2012, we have twenty-three days. Surfing around on the internet I discovered that “officially” Advent is supposed to end at sundown on December 23, but many of us will probably agree that Christmas Eve starts as soon as the house is clean and the guests start to arrive, whether that is before or after going to church.
So what to make of Advent this year?
As I mentioned in the title of this piece and by my descriptions of each of the days this prior week (Grey Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Christ the King Sunday, Cyber Monday, Decorating Tuesday), as much as it liturgically may feel somewhat empty between Thanksgiving and Advent 1, the days were already full – shopping season is already in full swing, your Christmas decorations may have come out and it is very easy to lose yourself in the Spirit of what our culture calls the Holiday Season without centering yourself in the faith that sets this time apart as holy in the first place.
So here is what I propose:
Let’s make these days count from now into the beginning of the new year.
I don’t mean just making our lists and checking them twice. We all know what we have to do between now and Christmas. But let’s get serious about the child that we expect to come and what he might bring to this world of ours that feels simultaneously cluttered and barren.
God might surprise us with the unexpected. That is what Advent is all about!
Below are Bible verses to read daily between now and the day of Epiphany, January 6. I had fun picking them. Read them in the morning to start your day. Or take a moment to dwell on them over a break or at lunchtime. Another possibility could be to read and think on them the night before as a nighttime devotion. There are lots of options, but try to carve out a little time each day in the midst of so many other goings on. Share them with a friend and talk about it. Post your thoughts on our St. Michael’s Facebook Page: (http://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Michaels-Lutheran-Church-New-Canaan-CT/157350404325623 ). Send them to the Bishop (http://bishoponabike.squarespace.com/contact/) or somebody else lingering in no man’s land and lend some encouragement.
If you are going to share these verses with others, try incorporating the “Faith Five” – a method developed by Pastor Rich Melheim and his ministry Faith Inkubators (http://www.faithink.com/Inkubators/faith5.asp ) The “five” parts of the process are:
1. SHARE (talk about your highs and lows of the day)
2. READ (the appointed verse of the day)
3. TALK (about how that verse relates to highs and lows, and especially in these days, how you think they might relate to Advent, Christmas, Jesus, or no man’s land)
4. PRAY (about the highs and lows share, those you are with, and the world)
5. BLESS (Each other – “The Lord bless you and keep you”)
Soon you will find you are nowhere near no man’s land; but connecting God’s promises to your everyday experiences and you’ll be blessing the world in tangible ways.
This Advent, into Christmas and beyond, and in the days between –
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16)
Tie-dye is optional.
BIBLE VERSES FROM NO MAN’S LAND – PRIOR ADVENT & BEYOND
Nov 28 – Revelation 22:20-21, “The one who testifies to these things says, ‘surely I am coming soon.’ Amen Come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen”
Nov 29 – Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”
Nov 30 – John 1:41, “(Andrew) first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘we have found the Messiah’.”
Dec 1 – Matthew 5:10-11, “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Dec 2 – Isaiah 2:4, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
Dec 3 – Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.”
Dec 4 – Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who have lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.”
Dec 5 – John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Dec 6 – Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”
Dec 7 – John 11:25, “Jesus said to (Martha), ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.’”
Dec 8 – Isaiah 12:2, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.”
Dec 9- Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.”
Dec 10 – Ezekiel 34:11, “For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.”
Dec 11 – Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
Dec 12 – John 10:11, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Dec 13 – Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters.”
Dec 14 – Amos 5:24, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Dec 15 – John 4:15, “But the who drink of the water I will give will become in them a spring of water that leads to eternal life.”
Dec 16 – Psalm 23:3-4, “He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley; I fear no evil; you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
Dec 17 – Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.”
Dec 18 – Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Dec 19 – John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Dec 20 – Psalm 23:5, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Dec 21 – Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Dec 22- John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Dec 23 – Luke 21:10-11, “Then (Jesus) said to them, ‘nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues, and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”
Dec 24 – Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look the young woman is with child and shall bear a child, and shall name him Immanuel (God with us).”
Dec 25 – Luke 2:12, “This will be a sign for you. You will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Dec 26 – Isaiah 9:6, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Dec 27 – Hebrews 1:1-2a, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by a son.”
Dec 28 – John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
Dec 29 – Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.”
Dec 30 – Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
Dec 31 – Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Jan 1 – Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Jan 2 – Isaiah 5:7, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry!”
Jan 3 – Jeremiah 12:1-2, “You will be in the right, O Lord, when I lay charges against you; but let me put my case to you. Why does the way of the guilty prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; you are near in their mouths yet far from their hearts.”
Jan 4 – Luke 13:6-9, “Then (Jesus) told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ “
Jan 5 – John 15:5, “I am the vine you are the branches. Those who abide in me bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
Jan 6 – 1 Chronicles 16:25-31, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Honor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come before him. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth. The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, “The Lord is king!””