Peter Rollins offers a number of liturgies under the banner of "orthopraxis" in his recent book, How (Not) To Speak of God. The Advent liturgy capitalizes on Mary as an avenue through which we may understand what it means to embrace the new, divine. Too many things have been retained offering lodging for thoughts and notions contrary to embracing the holy, the sacred. Underscoring what kind of life is birthed when we embrace the promise of God compels us the more to consider this a season of great anticipation.
Our way of thinking often distorts understanding. For those to whom Jeremiah spoke we find something of this mangled perception of reality. Walter Brueggemann, in Hopeful Imagination, puts forward the picture of a poet (Jeremiah) set for conflict. And, in at least some sense, if not the most poignant, the conflict is with a particular construal of the world and especially expectations surrounding the promise of God. He (Brueggemann) notes how a world constructed under the promise of God would hold hope for those who live in the reality of failure leading to despair. Our failures come in many shapes and sizes. Everyone would hope at some point we could expect justice and righteousness to come so we may experience life as intended. This longing connects us with the welcome Jesus gives to those cast out as "failures" in the Sermon on the Mount. We want the kind of justice where the scales are well balanced. We also see evidence of a longing for things to be set right.
Enter the RCL Lectionary Text from Jeremiah for the first Sunday of the New Year. The one thing most certain to catch the eyes of watchful exiles would be balanced justice and the world set to right (to borrow an N.T. Wright idiom). Letting go of our self-constructed realities that offer no hope and little anticipation that accompanies promise will allow us to embrace the promise of God with the kind of anticipation attached to a longing for freedom.
The poetical image of the "tender shoot springing" to life does more than conjure the imagination, it invokes a new understanding of the world and what we may expect. It may well have been this promise Mary embraced as we read in Luke’s gospel,
"And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
(You may find this and other Advent thoughts and resources at the BHT Advent Blog, Go To Bethlehem and See")