Strange question for a post about Advent? We'll see.
Zombies are all the rage. If you have a Netflix account you can stream limitless hours of zombie movies and shows, many of which are made in garages but others made with esteemed actors or networks known for good writing.
If you're a Jane Austen fan you may be completely dissatisfied or (maybe) elated to know that Pride and Prejudice was given new life (pun intended) when in 2009 Seth Grahame-Smith interwove zombies into the Bennett family's story. Continuing with the Lit nerd theme, maybe you'd enjoy a zombie Haiku:
My rigor mortis
is mainly why I'm slower
and the severed foot.
Needless to say, the zombie craze is an epidemic (so punny) of vast proportions, but mostly in 1st world countries like the USA, Europe, & Japan. Why?
Like all monsters, zombies reveal our culture's deepest fears. And what do 1st world countries have to be afraid of? Do you think it's a coincidence that people often hide out in malls in zombie movies and throngs of zombies push through the glass doors to wade through merchandise to get to their prey?
On the-day-after-the-day we celebrate being thankful and content with what we have, Thanksgiving, we celebrate another holiday known as Black Friday. Of course Thanksgiving is a holiday, while Black Friday more akin to a religious experience.
Religion comes from a word that originally meant "binding" which brings to mind practices of discipline. Like all religions, a good "Black Fridayist" must have disciplines which shape people's imaginations (thus making them spiritual disciplines akin). Beginning weeks in advance as well throughout the evening of Thanksgiving (I'm thinking we should rename this day to Black Friday Eve), families spend hours reading the holy scripture: ads. Then they must expose themselves to the bitter cold elements, stand in long lines, and prioritize possessions more than people (sometimes to the point of pepper spraying or stepping on someone's face).
Of course there are other people, who turn a smug nose to those that participate in the holy feast day that pushes the market into the black. But they (me?) are no different than the shoppers. Sure one is up at the crack of dawn (or midnight) shopping while the other remains in the warmth of their bed, nevertheless they/we are the same. We are all trapped (possessed?) in this economic system of consumption. No one's more guilty then another, it's just some have the comfort of being able to afford what they want with or without Black Friday sales.
Much like a zombie stuck in a catatonic state of unquenchable hunger for flesh, we are raised by our televisions and omnipresent ad agencies to consume mindlessly with a never ending hunger for more: more stuff, more bandwidth, more entertainment, more gadgets, more cars, more houses, more decorations and lights, more of just about everything.
I'm as guilty as the person who slept outside Best Buy for 30 hours to get a deal. We all are for no one can escape the ubiquity of consumer culture.
Advent is a reminder that our hope in God's-coming-to-us isn't hope simply for the afterlife, an escape to heaven. Advent hope recognizes that in Jesus heaven is breaking into earth. In God's incarnation these two realities, heaven and earth coalesce or collide.
These two infinitely-apart spaces are being intimately intertwined. Never the same, never separate.
At hand, but not in hand.
The good news of Jesus is more than "getting to heaven when we die," it's "getting heaven into us" before we die...heaven, the place where God's will is done on earth and in us. With God's reign or will or heaven breaking into our midst, the "schemas/forms' of the world are passing away" as Paul states in 1 Cor. 7:31. Passing away. Fading.
Maybe this is what that moment in zombie movies is called when one moves or passes or fades into the walking dead. But in Jesus we find the exact inverse, so that it is us who is awakening from our media induced sleep (another word used for death) into life lived in the fullness.
May we find in this Advent season our stress fading and our hunger for more passing while we ourselves become signs of heaven on earth.
Rev. Joe Bumbulis is the Minister to Students and Missions at First Baptist. Read more about Joe.