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The Advent reading this morning in the Daily Office Lectionary is a zinger, the way it’s laid out. (Don’t get any ideas—this isn’t something I do with any regularity.) First off, we’re given the Old Testament reading, the Lord’s promise through the prophet Isaiah, that a child will come, and that through him the heavy burdens of the “people in darkness” will finally see light:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, those who lived in the land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. (Isa 9.1-7)

The next reading, in St. Peter’s second letter, references that same great light, that it has come to us in the manger-stranger Jesus, and tells his readership this good news bears repeating:

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right…to refresh your memory. (2 Pet 1.12-21)

Peter reminds his readership that he saw the light with his own eyes, literally. But poor Peter also knows from experience! The Gospel reading this morning, in beautiful retrospective irony, flashes back to the not-so-flattering story of the same Peter, sitting by the firelight of Christ’s passion, denying he ever knew the guy.

The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22.54-69)

So there you have it—a three-fold story of Christmas promise: 1) a light is coming, 2) we need reminding of this light that has come, because, 3) when it is before our very eyes, we’ve already forgotten it.

the-head-of-the-apostle-peterIf you couldn’t relate to Peter before, surely you can now. I don’t know about you, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of “Advent Waiting” going on in our house these past three weeks. There’s been very little quiet time, very little reflection about Christmas—there’s a crèche in our bookcase, and we made a wreath, and lit a tree, but for God’s sake, we haven’t been home enough to look at any of them long enough for there to be some significant change in our daily life.

I have begun to wonder the obvious: if this “preparation” season before Christmas is actually busier than any other season of the year. With the rabid spending, the heightened expectations for family gathering, the Christmas cards and holiday parties and afterschool programs. It might be. “Christmas Spirit” to me doesn’t involve Baby Jesus or the promised light so much as it invokes a call to arms—replenish the photo wall! Order the sweatshirt in Medium! She says she just wants something “thoughtful”!

But it may also be that, in a time in which I am supposed to be waiting and listening, I am just that much more attuned to how much I am not. I will “prepare” for Christ’s coming like I prepare for everything—I will not prepare. Like St. Peter, I have a history of forgetting him in the frantic attempt to save my own skin.

And so, from one forgetter to another, Peter writes in his letter that the promise has not changed. The Star of Bethlehem still hangs in the darkness, an undaunted signal. Peter writes that, until his dying day, his only job is to continue reminding a forgetful people who think they know it already. As much as Advent is a time of waiting and listening, Advent is also a time of forgetters “refreshing their memory.” That the promise of a child is no more moved than when it was promised to Isaiah. As Peter says to the other forgetters, “we will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”