My kitchen sink stopped draining a couple nights ago. It was late enough that I didn’t want to deal with it, but – you know those problems? If you leave it alone, you’ve got to deal with it in the morning anyway.
I turned to my roommate, trying for the easy way out:
“Let’s just go buy some Drain-O tomorrow and I’m sure it’ll be good as new. Right?”
My roommate looked at me and looked at the sink, backed up for the third time that month.
“I’m pretty sure the whole pipe needs to be removed and cleaned.”
The funny thing is, no one meant to ruin our kitchen sink. No one spent their midnights shoveling food down the drain, thinking, “This will stop up the sink, muhaha!” No one intentionally filled that pipe with sludge so that it wouldn’t drain.
Sometimes, life happens. And in those cases, the solution usually isn’t as easy as Drain-O. It’s a lot more like dissembling and cleaning all the pipes.
It’s tempting to believe that as long as we steer clear of intentional error, that we’ll be okay. The sink can’t be stopped up, because, we didn’t shove food down the drain! It’s not our fault!
Unfortunately, just like my sink, life is often broken even if our consciences are clear.
The story we read in the Bible about the beginning of the world and the fall of man, makes one thing painfully obvious: humanity is living under a curse. The world is cursed. Things aren’t as they should be, and we can’t fix it by just by being good people.
Hard as that is to comprehend a “curse” in California in 2020 – where we value objective facts and moral congruency – it’s hard to argue with the fact that some things in our world are just plain broken. Something is wrong. You may not agree on all of them, but most everyone I meet feels passionately that at least one or two of these points are seriously, seriously messed up:
the American political system,
the institutional church,
If you feel one of these things is “not as it should be”, it’s an echo of that curse. Our individual efforts, all added up, still don’t cut it. We need something – someone – to disassemble the pipes and give us a fresh start, because Drain-O isn’t going to fix it.
In the Bible, Genesis 3:15 gives us hope for the future right in the middle of this cursed, broken world. There’s a curse, yes (and that’s a story for another day how all THAT happened), but there’s also a promise.
“I will put enmity between you (serpent) and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Or, loosely translated, “Damn snakes.”
…literally! The serpent responsible for tempting Eve into eating the forbidden fruit – the snake, the very symbol of evil in this story – gets cursed, but it’s a promise of hope for us.
Advent is an annual celebration of the fact that this very promise came true in Jesus. The snakes – all that is evil and wrong in the world, every backed up sink, those systemic problems, everything we can’t fix on an individual level – the curse isn’t permanent. There’s a way out. Every advent, we celebrate the way out in Jesus.
What started in a garden with a snake, ends in another garden with a tomb.
This is the opening of advent: an acknowledgement of things being very, very wrong – not only individually, but systemically too – and depending on God’s promise to create a solution for us, a way of rescue.
Oh and, about an hour later, we had our sink running just fine again. It was nice to wake up to a working sink! Ha!
Til next time,