Perhaps routines matter too much to me.
My Sunday morning routine: alarm at 6:30; coffee automatically dripping—while I head out to the newspaper drop box; the lectionary readings for today—while drinking my first cup; then, warm up the coffee and settle back on the couch for some serious Sunday comics reading. Soon, I wake up Judy, and while she gets ready for church, I finish the paper. Pretty invariable. It is a routine I look forward to; some might call it a ritual.
This morning: no newspaper.
As a younger generation would say: OMG! A Sunday without the comics is hardly a Sunday at all. Right? Well, perhaps my routines matter too much to me. All else is the same—except for this one addition—it is Advent, after all, so I have to make sure the tree basin for the Christmas tree is full of water. This one is very fresh and so very thirsty.
I am remembering this morning an Advent season many years ago when we spent Advent and Christmas as Lutherans at Central Lutheran near Lloyd Center. I’ll not go into why we were doing that because it is a story too long for today—and, in some ways, too dark to share. I’ll leave it at this: we were churchless and feeling okay about that until Advent showed up and the thought of going through this holy time alone was too great a thought. So, we escaped to Central Lutheran urged by Alice Keinberger, WPC’s librarian at the time—and experienced Advent and Christmas as fully and beautifully and theologically and as communally and as liturgically—as routinely—as, I think, it is meant to be experienced.
The Thessalonian lection for today—1 Thessalonians 3:9–13—calls us to such a place. We live as “in betweeners”: those who are grateful recipients of that Great Grace, the first Advent when we celebrate the One who came and who live in anticipation of that Great Grace, the second Advent when we will worship the One who is to come. We live in that past and future with the One who comes. How do we do that?
…and may the Lord make your love increase and overflow to one another and to everyone, as our love does to you. May he make your hearts firm, so that you may stand before our God and Father holy and blameless when our Lord Jesus comes with all those who are his own (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 REV).
We live aware. We live on tip toes. We live in relationship with others who are aware and live on tiptoes. We live in expectancy, as my friend, Anne Smith teaches. We practice the future in the present by paying attention to God and scripture in community. We live with a sense of the past that forms us and in eagerness for the future that invites us—and as followers of the Way of Jesus who travels with us. We live in routines—the theological word for that is practices; we practice what it means to live as followers of Jesus: pray, read, talk, worship, remember, eat together, laugh, take care of each other, take care of the stranger. Remember.
The Romans had a god they called Janus; the god of beginnings and transitions and also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. Janus is typically presented with two faces: one looking forward and one looking backwards. As pagan as it sounds, I think this is the stance of practicing Christians: remembering the past and with reverence embrace the future with expectancy even as we live now, eagerly desiring to live in God’s reign, as persons who routinely hold both tenderly and loosely, walking the Way from and the Way to.
I know: missing the Sunday comics is not a tragedy, but it is a disruption—but a disruption that leads me to reflect on the importance of routine in our lives. Now, for my second cup, a shower, and church.