We start Advent not with shepherds and angels and babies meek and mild. Instead we start with apocalyptic warnings. I don’t like it. I prefer the kids in animal and shepherd costumes—the cute Christmas. But we don’t always get what we want. Instead we start Advent with a passage that is full of images of floods, and people disappearing, and thieves.

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Harry stopped me. He went out to his car and came back with a .357 Magnum. He laid it on the table, carefully covered his hands with his sleeves, emptied the chamber and handed me the gun. “It’s a gift,” he said. “I want you to have it.” He added with a warm smile. “It looks like you could use a little help around here.”

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In this and similar passages, Jesus doesn’t weigh in on whether he falls in the strict or loose camp. As a rabbi he makes a far more profound move.

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