Something is coming. Two voices proclaim the same thing. Hear the voice of a desert herald: Prepare the way, something is coming. Hear the voice of an ancient prophet: A dead stump is sprouting, something is coming.
Two voices, as unlike as day and night, are agreed. Something is coming.
Isaiah speaks softly and soothes his people: things are going to change. Something is coming.
The Baptist rages with threats against his people: you’d better change. Something is coming.
Do you hear the voice? Can you feel the pressure of something coming, something big, something awesome? Can you remember the waiting in your guts after a tremor in the night— is this the big one? Can you remember the hot dry wind that blows before a fire — is somewhere a spark being kindled? Something is coming.
Fools that we are, in Advent we celebrate that feeling, celebrate that something is coming.
Something is coming that will end the way we live and begin a whole new age in our planet’s story.
John the Baptist sees the ending of the old with an awful clarity: the axe is already laid at the rotten roots of the tree.
Isaiah the prophet dreams the birth of the new with lyrics running wild: even now the dead stump is putting out shoots, bursting into bud, springing to life.
Either way, something is coming. Hope for it or hide in dread, it’s on its way. And it will make a change indeed! Greater than the quaking earth, wilder than the fires of fall, something is coming that will overturn all our futures, burn away all our routines.
John has a terrifying vision of the harvest bonfire: the hypocrites, the settled, those with fruitless lives — all are ready for the fire, to be burned away like chaff to leave the grain sheer and clear.
In contrast, gentle Isaiah’s words are consoling: there is going to be justice for the poor, there is going to be help for the afflicted, the is going to be no harm or ruin in all God’s earth.
But there will be change, change of a magnitude we can barely encompass!
- The lion will learn to be vegetarian.
- The snake will lose its venom.
- The predator will make peace with the prey
- Children will be safe on the streets.
- Nations will be one.
- And the earth will quiver no more.
Something is coming that will change the natural order right down to its roots. Not just a change of human hearts — which would be miracle enough — but a transformation of creation all the way down to the smallest sub-atomic particle.
Something is coming and when it does it will break into our world and change it so utterly we will only recognise it in our dreams, in our strangest middle-of-the-night stirrings when the heart refuses to rest.
Something is coming — that’s the promise and the threat of Advent — and, fools that we are, we celebrate.
We celebrate, but we don’t believe! This Christmas we will celebrate our hurried feasts without ever daring to hope or fear what might have been, what could have been, what we only hope in the dark of night may yet be.
Only in that moment after the midnight quake do our hearts open to the possibility. Something is coming.
Only when the fire-winds of fall keep us looking to horizon for smoke, only then do we feel it. Something is coming.
Something is coming — prepare its way.
December 10th, 1995