The other day as I was out walking my dogs I came across a for sale sign in the yard of a house in my neighborhood. The sign was from a real estate company selling a something tangible - a house.
Normally I wouldn’t think much about it, except that afternoon I would be talking with staff members of the church I serve about Advent planning. So I got to thinking abut the difference between realty, dealing with purchasing or selling real estate, and reality, the state of things as they actually exist.
Most people understand the idea of buying and selling property. It could be a yard sale, selling a used camper or even buying a new house. The aforementioned things are real. We can touch them. We can hold them. They exist in a realm where we can see them.
But as a pastor, especially in the coming season of Advent, I am called to lift people's eyes and thoughts not to realty, but to reality. As people of faith, we understand that just because we cannot see, feel, smell or taste something, it does not mean it doesn’t exist.
The reality we see is that God chose to become incarnate so that you and I could experience God, not in some existential cosmic form, but in the person of Jesus. And oddly enough, if you will allow the sentiment, Jesus is both realty - something tangible - and Jesus is our reality - God dwelling among us, dying for us, rising for us.
This Advent season is going to be difficult and different. We will have to juggle gathering during larger than normal attendance times while maintaining respectful distancing. We are going to have to proclaim that with Jesus we can take off the masks we wear to hide the real us, while wearing masks to protect one another. Needless to say that no one is saying that this year is going to be easy.
But this is the nature of the church. Proudly proclaiming a reality that the long-expected Jesus has come (and praise God, to come again!) to a world that desperately needs to hear this Good News. And the realty, the touchable, tangible Jesus is the church as well.
If you are looking for Advent resources, the Conference program staff will offer many new resources at the end of October. You also may want to take a look at Discipleship Resources and this year's lectionary resources titles, “This Place is a Mess”.