Reading the Hebrew Scripture assigned for yesterday I was struck by the words “… on that day [that is, on the day of judgement] … the earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruits of their doing.”  And I found myself thinking about gardens.  The garden of Eden, the paradise of the creation story.  The song, Woodstock, where “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”  The garden worked by members of this congregation to feed those in need in this community.

It makes sense to me to see ourselves as a people placed by God in this garden world to care for it, on behalf of God, and in the service of ourselves and others – the most basic meaning in my mind of the word “stewardship.”  Someone in place who represents someone else’s interests.  That’s our job, if you will, to represent God’s interests in this garden of creation.

A creation, in my mind, often left desolate by the fruits of our doing.  When we see creation as a thing to be used and used up and exploited, rather than as a sacred trust held for God and our neighbor and posterity.  The fruits of our doing, my wife tells me, have led to dystopian fiction being a huge thing in young adult literature.  The Hunger Games series is perhaps the most prominent example of this hugely popular and rapidly expanding genre.

So what, if anything, does this have to do with Advent?

I’m guessing that we all probably associate Advent primarily with a time of preparation for Jesus coming – for Jesus coming into our lives.  And I’d bet that we associate this primarily with the coming of the baby Jesus on Christmas Day.  And this is certainly part of what Advent is all about:  preparing our lives, making room in our lives, for Jesus to be fully present in them on Christmas Day.

And one of the ironies about this is that culturally we make this time of anticipation and preparation so busy that it’s hard to find room in our lives to take time to do this.  And when we do find ways to take this time, and to see this as a time of preparation, anticipating a coming celebration, we can be in danger of seeming to be wet blankets.  Other people are already using this as a time of celebration.  While, in theory, we have a twelve day season of celebration that does not begin until Christmas Day.

So we are, at least in theory, out of step.  We’re trying to take time for reflection and preparation.  People around us are inviting us to be very busy with them in a season of partying and generosity and self indulgence and celebration.  It might be easier, in fact, to spend time in quiet and reflection beginning on Christmas Day, for the twelve days of Christmas.  Jesus is here, in my life.  What does this mean for my life?

Which brings me to the other part of Advent, which we often seem to overlook, as we focus on the coming baby.  Advent is also about Jesus coming as ruler or judge or sovereign.  If the baby comes with no power, on the day of judgement Jesus comes with power.  Possibly not power as we often think of it and use it.  But this is God’s world, and Jesus is our God, and in some fashion Jesus will determine what happens to us.  And that will be that.

And that’s where being stewards of the garden of God’s creation begins to have a real Advent flavor for me.  Caring for God’s creation includes caring for ourselves, as well as others.  It includes caring for posterity, as well as for ourselves.  It includes inviting others to know God’s love in Jesus and in the goodness of God’s creation.  All of this is the job God has given us in creation.

The issues we face, of course, are bigger than ourselves.  They are bigger than even individual governments.  They require us to see and work on a global scale, like never before in human history.  Otherwise the earth will become a desolation as the fruit of our works.

Classically, we think of the day of judgement as Armageddon and “the very last day.”  Everybody’s gonna pray, on the very last day.  When God holds us, finally and forever, accountable for our stewardship of creation.  Who knows.  That may happen someday.  Scientifically, it might even have to happen some day.  And it could happen during my lifetime – though I doubt it.

Yet for all practical purposes, it will, without a doubt, occur at the end of my life as I know it.  Someday I will die.  My work in this garden will be done.  It will be judged.  Jesus, who rules my life, will make a determination about my future.  Something new will begin.

It seems to me that there are two, parallel tracks for reflection called for during the season of Advent.

The first invites us to make room for Jesus.  To know and recognize his love for us.  To see how this love can power and shape our lives as we live them out daily.

The second track focuses, I think, more on our work in God’s garden.  It’s less about internalizing God’s presence and more about living out God’s presence in our lives.  It’s about doing our part in growing God’s garden.  It’s about being ready, someday, to be face to face with the God who loves us and the God we work for – one in the same God, mind you, but perhaps two faces of our God, both of which we will be seeing then.

And one of the amazing things about gardens is that, though we work them by preparing the ground and planting and weeding and watering, there is also a sense in which they produce of themselves.  There is room for joy in the abundance of life in God’s creation.  There is room for joy in being creative ourselves within God’s creation.  There is accountability.  But there is joy and a sense of accomplishment in a job well done, in a way that works in cooperation with God’s purposes.

I guess, in a sense, I would say Advent is about reflecting on how we are rooted and growing and producing in our own lives as a living part of God’s ongoing creation.

And I say this to you in the Name of God:  Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.  Amen.

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