Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ironic Advent Meditation 2016, #1: That's Not How You Spell Hub Bub.

 *photo courtesy of Grace Ballantine Gorman, God bless her. 

Nita wanted to die. I think she did, anyway, but of course they say that people sometimes try to do things but not really die. That sounds risky to me. And it’s probably not a great idea to stand back and cite the children’s classic The Boy Who Cried Wolf  as your reason for standing back. Nita was my mom. My name is Ben Camino. Today is the First Sunday of Advent. And this is Ironic Advent Meditation #1 for 2016.

If you’ve been with me before for the complete set of Ironic Advent Meditations in 2012 and 2013 and the incomplete sets for 2014 and 2015, and that would mean your name is probably Jennifer or Edwin or Laura or Jennifer or Ross or Jennifer, you sort of know the drill. If you’re a naïve little Mennonite baby, like Brandon Harnish, don’t worry, you’ll catch on quickly. And if you don’t, it shouldn’t be any more confusing that Advent really is. Oops, there I go again.

Anyway, if the great power who sends down her blessing on all bloggers, The Great Bloz, gives me time and breath and keeps away the rotator cuff tendonitis, I will be blessing you, not to mention amazing you, not to mention disturbing you in my never-ending battle to keep Advent out of the hands of the neo-gingerbread post-evangelical pre-tribulation forces of warm and fuzzy thinking. 

You know, the same people who keep telling us that solitude is a spiritual discipline. Doesn’t anyone realize that there is WAY TOO MUCH SOLITUDE on this <curse word> PLANET!? Doesn’t anyone realize that more dancing is what we need? And more hugs. Here’s a little trick I learned back in . . . oh, I don’t know, I’m making this up so fill in the blank. Anyway, here’s the thing for all budding theologians and would-be spiritualisticists: if it doesn’t work in the <curse word> nursing home, do NOT bring it in to my line of sight. I will slap you. That’s another good spiritual discipline for Advent.

I also want to take this opportunity to personally thank the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church  for making this the single longest Advent I’ve ever tried to ironize. If I’m counting right, I’ll have to do churn out 28 of these babies before baby Jesus even shows his divine little face at midnight mass in Austin, Texas on December 25th. Despite the grueling schedule, I will try to make sure you don’t know what to expect. I will also be asking some of you, I’m sure, to help me out with your own Ironic Advent Meditation (copyright Ben Camino, 2012). If you don't know what to expect in the ones you write yourself, I can't help you. And, remember, if you should think about going out on your own and doing likewise (Brandon), I’m sure I can think of another fine “spiritual discipline” or two. At least until they repeal the Second Amendment (yeah right).

Tomorrow, the second day of Advent, I promise to return to the story I began to tell tonight. The story of Nita and other lovely persons who feel like dying. Right now, I just want to acknowledge two people who got this ugly little adventure called Ironic Advent Meditations started in the first place. One was Father Richard Miller, who used to be my pastor. The other was my good friend Jennifer Woodruff Tait, who was there in the same service with me when Father Rich preached the first Ironic Advent Sermon I ever remember hearing. He didn’t call it that. It’s just when you write a series every year called “Ironic Advent,” you start seeing things through that grid, right? Sort of like why people in Boulder, Colorado just figure everyone else must be getting high. 

So Father Rich is preaching and all of a sudden he goes off into what we might call “the high country.” We look at each other like . . . “did he just say that?” We all knew about his addiction to Karl Barth, but this was even beyond that. So Jennifer and I both wrote about it after the service. She posted a Facebook post. And I did too, later, after stealing as many ideas of hers as I could. I have tried to pay her back (not sure it’s working) by posting her original every year. I’m not  sure I can find mine, but if I can, I’ll post it too. Because, as you will come to know and love, Ironic Advent Meditations are almost never pithy. Oh, it’s not that I can’t be pithy. And I’m darn sure that Jennifer can be pithy. In fact, she once said “Shut up, Joe!” which was both pithy and the other word in this near pun thing that I'm working on here. But sometimes you’ve just got to realize that pith can only get you so far. OK, I’m sorry. Over it. I apologize. How is that? Pithy enough for you? 

So, before I get back to Father Rich and Jennifer and the sermon that started it all, please know that I'd like you to share these if you want to. I don’t say  you like them. But you’re allowed. That’s all I’m saying. If you do, though, please don’t say something like: “this is really long, but it has a good sentence in the 14th paragraph.” Just let people discover it’s really long. I write them for people who will read long things. If you don't read things, you should. Especially when they are this thoughtful. I can do haiku if I wanted to. I even have another blog with my Lenten haiku. Find it, I dare you.

I am  trying to make this difficult. Because it is. As I suggested at the beginning, people try to kill themselves or at least want to die. Even during what Macy’s calls “the holiday season.” That’s not simple. That’s not uncomplicated. Everything we say has to be resisted as well as said (you can tell your friends about that line because I admire it myself).

So Father Rich preached. And, as I remember, it was a really short sermon. Pithy. Well done, Father Rich. Totally messing with my blissful verbosity. Anyway, or anyways as Jennifer Lynne Ricke says, it was, as I say, summed up admirably by Jennifer Woodruff Tait in her poem and, shortly thereafter, “liked” by Jennifer Strange (confused?). This was the beginning. And believe you me (I love that strange syntax), this is the place you want to be getting your Advent nourishment throughout "the holiday season." It will be all roots and spring water, with maybe some salty tears and raw intestines thrown in for good measure.

So, here we go. Hold on Brandon, you pup. 

Anything Useful
a guest meditation by 
Jennifer Woodruff Tait (2012)
AKA: The Original Ironic Advent Meditation

*Joe Martyn Ricke and M Richard Miller, this poem is all your fault.

If you came to church for anything useful today,
forget it.
Anything practical: 
three points to help you in the Monday workplace, 
two tips for witnessing to your coworkers, 
five guides to a good marriage.

If you came to church for the hats, 
pew cushions, 
happy songs, 
warm feelings,
or even a blessing, 
forget it.

This is the first Sunday of Advent.

Lo, He comes with clouds descending, once for ransomed sinners slain.

The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

And here is what I wrote a little later (thus, the “official” original Ironic Advent Meditation)

Ironic Advent Meditation (2012)

Verily, verily I sayeth unto thee(uth), the sky shall turn to blood, things will fall out of the sky (leaves, for example), and all kinds of other stuff will happen before the end will come, and then it will be . . . the end. And then . . . whatever comes after that. Oh my gosh, we just put "greens" (no not collards) all over the church but that's kind of ironic because the world is going gray, gray, and . . . oh yeah, ORE-ANGE! (See that sunset!?) We want those plastic (or whatever horrible substance they are made of) greens, sweet baby Jesus (keep the dang kid swaddled, please), cute superwhite angels, "a feel good story for the ages," and, oops almost forgot, peace on earth. And he saith unto thee and thine: behold(eth), I'm pulling back the curtain, and, sorry, but it's kind of a raging great ball of fire back there. Like, dearly beloved, you probably can't figure this out on your own. Like, forget about the Victoria Secret Christmas Special because this is some heavy stuff and it won't have a Bruno Mars soundtrack. All things will change. You will die. The world you know is not for long. It's out of control (at least yours). 

All signs are negative (well, all but one). A child shall be named Grace. And she will understand why. And she will be an artist and cry tears that make the angels fall off their comfy cloudy perches.

But if this doesn't blow your mind and squeeze your lungs, you can light every candle you got and it won't be enough. You want some sweet words to get you through? Sorry, it's the first week of Advent, forget about it. This is going to get way stranger than that. Clearly, the Lord desireth to shocketh His people. I cometh to thee wild, weird, and riding on a donkey (well inside a person riding on a donkey). I mean, if any of this means anything, it's got to be bigger than . . . the Kardashians. Your redemption draweth nigh. That is actually scary if you think about it, which you probably don't want to do. I think I'd rather go back to Ordinary Time.

Thanks Grace Ballantine Gorman for the picture.
Thanks M Richard Miller for the Advent sermon.
Thanks Jennifer Woodruff Tait for the earlier draft (ha ha)

Thanks squirrels, birds, and pilgrims. 

Dear Readers of 2016. They won’t all be this long. It’s like Pascal said . . . (oops, I cut the rest).  

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