And additionally...my favorite season of the year. Why? Maybe because it seems like the most realistic one to me. And I think that's a good foundation to start each new year on...a real one. Advent is the time when longing & unmet desires meet celebration & fulfillment, holding the 2 ends of the spectrum of our human experience in tension without denying either of them. Grief and hope, pain and joy together. Because honestly, how often are we not feeling both at the same time in some way?
Advent is a season of waiting, preparation, longing, and celebrating. Amidst the chaos that our Americanized, commercialized, consumeristic "Christmas" can pull us into, we're given an invitation as the community of God's people during Advent to say no to the noise. No to the busyness. No to the stress. No to the spending.
We're invited to say yes to a counter-cultural quiet––silence even. Yes to slowing down rather than speeding up. Yes to spending less and in different places, so as not to feed the machine of unjust slave labor that our consumer culture breeds (especially this time of year). We're invited to prepare to remember in gratitude the first coming of Christ, to acknowledge the longings & struggles we need God to come for today, and to hope confidently as we wait for the second coming of Christ when all of creation will be restored and made right. Advent sets us in the past, present, and future all at once––in the fullness of time. Something about this helps us with the slowing of our paces, the realization of our smallness, and the wondering at a God who would choose to become human to prove to us we're not alone, that God is with us and understands, and to show us how to live in Love.
Advent is a time to listen to the prophets, to learn their language, and to adopt their eyes. A great Light has shown into the world, yes, but there is much darkness for it still to overcome. And there is much work for us to do in bringing the Light to bear on the places, people, and systems still desperately waiting on it. So we read Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Psalms of lament, and the Gospel stories to learn how to see and talk about what is still broken, what is still gruesomely unjust & wrong––all the while speaking hope & a better way into the people and places that need it. A better way of Love that leads us to hurt ourselves and each other less and that adds to the beauty rather than the brokenness. A better way that helps to make this world a home where every child, every person, every part of Creation can be safe and loved. We have good news...for our own hardened, hurting hearts. For our loneliness. For the light flickering inside us that we haven't seen or felt in some time. For the children in our neighborhood who are becoming parents so young. For the victims of hateful, non-sensical violence in Ferguson & all the other places around the world due to the lies of racism. For those trapped in the sex trade and other slave labor. For the child soldiers. For the adult soldiers. For those misunderstood or discriminated against because of their gender, sexual orientation, religion, race, etc. For those considering suicide. For the deceived. For the betrayed. For the addicted. For the migrants walking the desert into our country as I type, hundreds dying. For the countries they come from. For our country, and all we surely have to apologize for. For those on both sides of the imbalance of power in our world...both the oppressed and oppressors. For those who feel forgotten, alone, unseen, or unheard. And for countless others, we have the good news of a better way. We really can have peace when we remember that we belong to each other––that we make it together or we don't make it at all (as our new friend Pastor Randy, a modern-day Samaritan, says).
And the songs of Advent give us language to speak this good news of a better way to ourselves and each other. To sing of the beauty and wonder at it, trusting it to be true even if we can't imagine how that could be so at the moment...