As a child I loved stuffed tomatoes. My mother would cut the top off of a large tomato, scoop the juicy insides out into a bowl, mix them with tuna, mayonnaise, and a few condiments, and restuff the tomato skin with this flavor-filled concoction. As an adult I tried to recreate the stuffed tomato, but it never had the flavor or consistency I remembered it having as a child. In the meantime, tomatoes had been genetically modified to create a consistently perfect looking fruit with an increased shelf life. The modifications created thicker skins with less pulp. It also created tomatoes that were less juicy and less flavorful. We have now circled back and are once again producing heirloom tomatoes on organic farms.
We humans get very excited about our innovations and discoveries. It’s in our DNA to wonder what’s over the next horizon, to discover, to invent.
We get caught up in imagining the ways that a discovery will “make things better.” Unfortunately, we can’t peer into the future to see how our lives will actually be changed by our innovations.
Sometimes, in our enthusiasm for a shiny new thing, we simply turn a blind eye to the fact that the perfect looking, easily transportable tomato isn’t going to taste very good.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines "starting over" as "to begin to do something again, sometimes in a different way." We've all felt the need to start over, especially in the last few years as we’ve come out of the pandemic there have been many stories of loss, disruption, and beginning again.
Each year the church’s liturgical calendar provides us with periods of time dedicated to taking stock of our lives – times to consider the ways we have turned a blind eye to the parts of our lives that are not going as we had hoped or planned. Lent is an obvious time for that.
But the church has another season dedicated to starting over. We call it Advent. Why take stock of our lives now? Because the church’s year-long storytelling and pageantry about the life, times, ministry, and cosmic reality of Jesus is about to circle back and start again. The curtain goes up on Christmas Day. It’s time to get a good seat.
As the retelling of the salvation story begins anew, so can we. What judgements and opinions do we hold on to that have left us with tougher skins and tasteless experiences? Where have life choices taken us that we never anticipated, and how do we find our way back? What shiny new thing do we want that will only make life more material?
The four weeks of Advent are a quiet call to new beginnings. The stage is set. The yearly remembrance of the Light coming into the world is at hand. No matter what we need to reconsider in our lives, it is comforting to know that this life and the next are in hands far safer and gentler than our own.
Tidings of comfort and joy.