- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 10, 2006

The following is an excerpt from a recent sermon given by the Rev. Lynn Thomas Strauss:

The season of Advent in the Christian calendar marks the beginning of waiting: Waiting for Christmas, waiting for the birth of hope, waiting for singing favorite carols and for special presents to be unwrapped.

Advent is also a time of spiritual preparation. How will you, how will we, prepare for the birth of hope in a world so full of grief and loss, fear and violence, war, hunger and disease? How do we prepare for wholeness in a broken and suffering world?

Spiritual preparation is an act of faith. Something is coming, something is on the horizon and we need to prepare.

On Sunday mornings, I often speak two languages. One is the language of rational religion. I explain the history of religion and teach about religious experience and ritual. I encourage ethical action.

The other is the language of spirituality. I offer space for evoking the numinous, that which cannot be named. I point to the potential for awe, humility, radiance, joy, mercy and healing.

We can easily prepare for instruction in rational religion. We study, contemplate and question. It is more difficult to prepare for an awakening of spirit. As we anticipate both the darkness of solstice and the candles of Hanukkah and Christmas, we prepare for experiences of both rational and numinous religion.

We are aware of the common thread of all religious experience that heals the separations both real and imagined in our lives. Religious desire and anticipation is the longing to be healed, to be made whole, to be immersed in all life, to enter life fully.

To enter life fully is a holy act, evoking awe and trembling, ultimacy and intimacy, acknowledging something other than ourselves, but to which we belong.

What is it you anticipate this season? What is it you wait for in your life?

In capitalist America, we consumers are encouraged to long for material things, and to anticipate scoring a successful purchase. How could thousands and thousands of people wait through the night at computer stores to grab the latest video-game purchase? How could shopping malls be crowded at midnight just after Thanksgiving Day?

Is there some unmet need masked by consumerism? Do we know no other way to feel part of something larger than ourselves, no other way to feel alive and full of awe and wonder? Is shopping the only way to connect?

It is a fundamental part of our humanity, an old and elemental reality of human nature, to reach for fulfillment, to long for connection, to heal that which is separated and broken with us, to desire that which we cannot quite name.

This desire for truth and beauty, for union with self and other is a desire for the holy. To search for the best in yourself and connection to something larger is a good and real part of you, a spiritual part of you.

Know too, that desire is not sufficient, we wait for something more, something beyond yearning, something we cannot name.

As we enter the dark of the season know that something is coming, something is on the horizon, something is deep inside of you. Jan L. Richardson writes: “Darkness can become the tending place in which our longings for healing, justice and peace grow and come to birth.”

So let the dark work in you. Tend to your spirit. Dwell on your need for healing and wholeness. And trust in these weeks of Advent that what you need will come to you.

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