A fern grows in front of a tombstone in an autumnal Trinity Churchyard

Five Ways Into Sunday’s Scripture: The Paradox of Advent

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in the days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so, too, will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left. Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. 

Matthew 24:36–44

If not for the holidays, perhaps some of us might be inclined to curl up and hibernate as soon as the time changes and darkness falls earlier, along with the incoming cold. There isn’t a grand liturgical kick-off or parade for the season. Advent liturgy often begins with apocalyptic prophecies from Jeremiah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. We might have to dig deep to reignite or refresh our enthusiasm for the season.

And when we face these readings for the first week of the liturgical year, we sometimes groan. The relatively new and somewhat sentimental themes attached to the weeks of Advent — hope, peace, joy, and love (interestingly, faith is sometimes interchanged with peace) — are fairly universal and aspirational for all of humanity, so much that the commercial world has even adopted them. After all, what’s not to like? Who doesn’t hope for some hope? But where is the hope in dire warnings of our collective entropy, potential self-destruction, and inevitable mortality?

It’s not surprising that some people respond to such prophecies with attitudes (and theologies) that conjure aphorisms like “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!” or “There are no atheists in foxholes.” But Christian eschatology is neither nihilistic or protectionist in the ongoing picture of time and its tenses — or in the comings and goings of the Messiah, again and again. It is both paradox and palindrome. And it is only flesh deep, in a good way!

O come, o come, Emmanuel.

—Kathryn Carroll

The non-dualistic and paradoxical themes of the Advent liturgy concentrate the primary themes of Christian theology in the one short season, headlining the new year. 

From the office of the Presiding Bishop, Preparing to Become the Beloved Community, a new vision document that lays out The Episcopal Church’s long-term commitment to racial healing, reconciliation, and justice and includes Advent resource for groups, families, and individuals.   

A timeless message of Jesus’s coming in a dated recording of the Hawkins Family’s Jesus Christ is the Way.

Not much says big picture and time-bending more than the recent images from the Webb Telescope. Here, the formation of a star. About 7,600 light years away — more than three times longer ago than earth’s witness of the “wild star” that shone the way to the newly born Messiah. 

Prophets shared their vision of God’s world. Some would call Wendell Berry a modern prophet who reveres the earth as holy and sacred, our “baby” to tend. His bleak and hopeful prophesy in A Vision.

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Coming Soon

Wednesdays, Nov. 30 and Dec. 7 | 5:30pm
Sacred Ground Information Session
Join Trinity’s Sacred Ground group starting in January. Created by The Episcopal Church, Sacred Ground is a film- and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith. Small groups walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism together, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity. The curriculum focuses on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian/Pacific American histories as they intersect with European American histories. Contact Ruth Frey to learn more about this transformative program and to register.

Sunday, December 4 | 10am
Discovery: Hospitality of the Table
Conversations on Food Justice
How are we physically and spiritually fed? Learn more in this series with Metha Balasquides, Trinity’s Program Coordinator for Outreach, and Regina Jacobs, chairperson of Trinity’s Hospitality committee. In this first session, Metha Balasquides talks about Trinity’s current food insecurity initiatives, and ways you can get involved in caring for those in our neighborhood.

January 6–8 | Trinity Retreat Center
Hide & Seek: Reading the Song of Songs with Poets
No book of the Bible maps the landscape of love — human and divine — like the Song of Songs. For centuries the Song’s depiction of love’s push-and-pull has fed Christian devotion. Unsurprisingly, some of the ancient poem’s best interpreters have been poets. On this retreat with Nate Wall, we’ll venture into the Song of Songs accompanied by Christian poets old and new.