“Honey, call the neighbors. I think there is someone outside.” The best kinds of neighbors are those who make it their business to help protect your business. If you’ve ever witnessed suspicious activity next door, you appreciate the heads up, the warning, the watchful eye, the safety and comfort of friends. But what if your life is the disturbance? What if something happens to you that so changes and alters your world that everyone takes notice?
According to the Gospel of Luke, that’s exactly what happens to a group of neighbors some 2,000 years ago. Jesus enters the world at a time of relative calm. People were filled with the optimism of the Caesar, the celebratory satisfaction of Roman dominance, and the virtuous spirit of Greek philosophy. With little fanfare, a small family in Galilee experiences an upheaval to their world. Highly unusual things begin. A senior adult discovers she is expecting a baby; a virgin betrothed to a faithful man is pregnant; a prominent priest in the community goes mute. Taken separately, these signs might have been dismissed in the neighborhood as strange. As Luke describes the events, however, they are part of a divine domino effect. This heavenly sequence of events occurs over the period of nine months and turns the world upside down.
Before the “all is calm, all is bright” of a “Silent Night,” there is Advent. When society seems to be in the midst of darkness, Advent announces a new beginning. Advent says that life is seasonal. Just as fig trees sprout leaves twice each year, so believers have the chance to sprout with new life in winter. Consider the examples of Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist, Mary, and Joseph. Each one has a story to tell. Each one heard the news differently. Each one saw God’s work begin in their lives and in their neighborhoods.
In the process, things changed. They worshiped differently. They remained calm and served the needs of others under intense oppression. When necessary, they went into seclusion to collect their thoughts and renew their spirits. They unloaded things when others said to “acquire more.” They lived life from the bottom-up rather than the top-down. The world has never been the same.
We have the chance to experience their lives and decisions for 27 days during the Advent season. We have the opportunity to ask each other, “In our world today, what would it mean to make the same decisions in our neighborhood? How would our neighbors be affected? Do we see signs of life sprouting already that give us an indication that God’s work that has already begun?”
Wake up the neighbors. They won’t want to miss this. Advent is here.