It is the last Wednesday of the Church year. We are coming to the close of the season after Pentecost, and this Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent. This is our ecclesiastical New Year’s Day, and what do we do for New Year’s? We make a resolution. It is slightly different in the Church than in the secular world, but the intention is quite the same: We take advantage of a milestone to make the changes we want to see in our lives.
But the self-reflective nature of Advent is slightly different from the existential introspection of Lent. Advent is a time of joyful expectation, a tidying of the house for the relatives, not a spring cleaning and rummage sale, and as such, how do we make best use of this time, particularly with all the busyness of the holidays?
Make Christian a verb, not just a noun. I’m riffing on a video from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in which talks about turning the word “Jew” from a noun to a verb. (See the video below)
How do we turn our religion from a noun into a verb? How do we take the word “Christian” from a noun, a category with all its baggage and turn it into a verb, living and active, shining like the sun?
Reb Zalman says, and I agree, that it is intention that turns us from religious automatons into God’s people. Intention, purpose, focus: these are what drive us toward the source of our being, turning us outward toward loving the other as we love ourselves, i.e. seeing them as full and rich and completely human, realizing that we are not machines, being built one cog at a time, but rather we are trees, growing in the direction of the light that gives us life.
So this Advent I am setting an intention, and I invite you to join me, to be more like that tree, planted by streams of water, whose leaves do not wither (Psalm 1). I am setting the intention to incarnate the love of God, to let the Spirit enliven me, to be focused like Jesus on making this world into God’s world. I am setting the intention to make my faith a verb.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s video: