I love a good, simple scrambled egg. If one can get the balance of eggs and milk just right…and beat the eggs just enough before cooking… and then cook them thoroughly but not overcook them… and then add just the right amount of salt and pepper… and then if one has a good cinnamon raisin bagel or piece of toast made from fresh, homemade bread…and then maybe a small glass of orange juice, not too big and not too small…and a good place to sit and see the sun begin to peek it’s light over the horizon as a new day begins…
Wow, suddenly, my good, simple scrambled egg isn’t sounding so simple anymore, is it?
Indeed, sometimes getting the right balance of things in the mixture of things isn’t as easy as it might seem. This is true in life, as well as scrambled eggs. And it’s true all the time in life, but I think maybe, especially in the season that precedes Christmas, which Christians call Advent – a time of year that much of the world simply experiences as craziness.
Yeah, I think there are a not insubstantial number of people who love and yet struggle with this time of year. We love the gatherings of good friends and family that often start with Thanksgiving and then continue on through Advent and Hanukah, Kwanza, and Christmas – the good food and the music and singing and laughter and telling of favorite stories, new and old - yet we might also find ourselves dreading how these gatherings remind us of the people we love who are no longer with us, or of the parts of our families that are broken and maybe even not on speaking terms.
We love the lights going up on trees and lampposts and in our houses and even maybe in the stores that started almost covertly putting them up in a corner at the end of July or August. Yet, all of these lights remind us that the days are getting shorter and the nights with all of their loneliness and questions are getting longer.
We love to prepare feasts and presents for the ones we love, but we may feel pressured to buy food and stuff for others in ways that cause us financial stress and strain, or these preparations may remind us of all those who have no one to love them and nowhere to go for comfort. The songs we sing, the messages of this season of Advent and imminent Christmas are of peace and love and goodwill among all people, yet the war rages on in Ukraine, and end-of-year solicitations remind us of the crushing poverty so many people still experience in this world.
All of these contrasts at this time of year, all of these contrasts between things we may love and enjoy and things with which we struggle can leave us, well, feeling a bit scrambled, like my eggs, and not necessarily in the good way.
Even our scripture texts of what we call Year A in the three-year lectionary cycle through which we move through scripture passages year in and year out in our church and faith lives, even our scripture passages can leave us feeling a bit scrambled. Aren’t we in the season of focusing especially on peace and love and joy and warm and fuzzy things? Ok, ok, so we have Paul writing to the Christian community in Rome and us with words of encouragement about living in harmony with one another in our first reading today, that seems to feel warm and fuzzy…but then here comes John the Baptist talking about broods of vipers and God’s wrath and judgment! What’s that all about? That doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy…yes, even our scriptures can leave us feeling a bit scrambled…
Yet the writer of the gospel of Matthew, who intentionally mixed – scrambled - together parts of the gospel of Mark with his own writings, as well as a source we call “Q” (which is not to be confused with and has nothing to do with false Q-anon conspiracy theories); Matthew scrambled together these writings from different sources to try and bring together just the right mixture to wake up the first-century Christian community and to wake us up.
The story of John the Baptist abruptly appears in the gospel of Matthew and scholars have pointed out that this is not literary clumsiness, but theological design. “The action of God in history is often sudden, unexpected...” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, pg. 158) The Berlin Wall comes down, Martin Luther King Jr. strides across the world landscape (pg. 159), a young person invents a method for radically reducing and removing plastic from the ocean.
You see, the scrambling of our lives and this world is met by God’s clarion, piercing, clear call through John the Baptist, appearing like the prophet Elijah of old to call us from our over-busy lives and confused ways to be turned again to God’s ways. To the work of justice and liberation, the work of love and light, the work of doing more than just preparing ourselves the perfect breakfast, but of getting out on the streets to ensure there is food enough for all – body and soul.
To do more than getting lost in the worries and stresses of life and the stresses and worries of this or any season – setting our minds and hearts on priorities that are timeless and eternal.
John the Baptist came pronouncing that God’s reign had come near and inviting people to step into new life as they were washed with water in the Jordan River. We, too, have been called into new life through the waters of baptism. Do we need refreshing? Do we need reminding? Most days and in most hours! No wonder Martin Luther suggested splashing water on ourselves whenever water was near, as a reminder – you and I have been claimed in love and claimed in new life by God’s love through Christ!
I love a good, simple scrambled egg, but life is not simple. And in our topsy-turvy, sometimes scrambled and mixed up and jumbled lives where the right priorities are too often forgotten, we need this abrupt wake-up call from John the Baptist! We need to be reminded that God and Jesus are calling us to set our minds and hearts on God, to let the pathways of our lives be made straight and clear again – clear for the work of God to move through us. As individuals – that our days may be ordered not in craziness but by God and God’s loving righteousness. As churches, that we be not stuck in running things our ways but looking for God’s gaze of love and work of renewal that is surely, so surely seeking to teach us how to be church in and for the world of now. Not yesterday, not in first century Palestine, but here and now, for the people and the world around us.
Things will always be mixed up and even messed up. But with God’s help in this Advent season and all year-long, we can be growing in lives wherein we are re-oriented and re-ordered to see that we are living vessels made in God’s image and reborn by Christ’s loving work on the cross; living vessels made for the work of loving God and loving and caring for neighbor, all day, every day, every way.
All day, every day, every way.