The church was born a pioneer and – while it has come of age – so it even celebrates the New Year around a month before the rest of the world, at the First Sunday of Advent, today.
New year is a time for brave beginnings, fresh openings. It is a time to find doors and gates, seek for encounters between two spaces, places and realities, to open the door, leave what was behind, and get boldly in the novel and the unknown.
Today, in 1929, was a day of new opportunities also to my father who was then born; yes, almost a century ago. Getting out of the comfort of his mother’s womb, with his twin brother, marked the first day of his life in which he certainly not always was in his comfort zone.
The other day David, one of the students that I share my home with, arranged a farewell dinner for two of his classmates that he had known since Day 1 of his studies. The dinner marked, I guess, to all of the 15 students a door that opened the next steps of their lives.
At the time that the last guests of the group stood at the gate of our home, toxic masculinity needed to give way for sharing their emotions, tears and hugs at their entering the diverse paths that they were no more walking together.
Globally, or should we say NorthSouthGlobally, this First Sunday of Advent marks not only opening, or lifting up, the gates and the doors (see Psalm 24:7-9), but rather closing them down.
The success of South African scientists in identifying a new variant of the COVID virus, named omicron, resulted in a disaster not only in economy but human relations between those in the South and those in the North.
The whole region of Southern Africa was separated from much of the rest of the world, out of the fear of death.
That’s why I am prepared to not seeing my family over the coming Christmas (and who knows how many to come), but also opening my home to those that might get stuck by the newly erected corona curtain.
So, for me, today’s revolutionary Psalm 24 got a whole new relevance and meaning.
“Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.”
Prophet Isaiah did not express the message any more shy (62:10):
“Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! — Surely your salvation is coming.”
I wonder how the Church will pioneer the message in this coming Christmas time.
A pioneer in many fields, my friend and student Martti Havukainen, a Pentecostal Christian, posted me today a picture from his cottage, looking into a lake wearing its wintery blanket of snow and ice.
A lake shore is another encounter, between land and water. Who would not want to cross it?