Christmas is soon coming. During this time of year, we find ourselves talking about trees and lights and presents and eggnog and all that. But Christmas is the culmination of Advent, and Advent is a season that is celebrated in the church and it is Advent that I want to talk about in today’s blog.
Sometimes we’re exhausted and sometimes we are overwhelmed with doubt. Sometimes we’re on top of the world and everything is going smoothly, other times we find ourselves standing in the midst of the wreckage, surrounded by smoldering flames, wondering how it all went wrong.
What the church calendar does is create space for Jesus to meet us in the full range of human experience. It allows God to speak to us across the spectrum, in the good and the bad, in the joy and the tears.
Part of the problem is that in church we tend to only sing happy songs that talk about victory. There are lots of times that churches ask sad people to sing happy songs. When you look at the Psalms in the bible, you will find that half of the Psalms are laments. The math should move us on that. The Bible is not just a collection of war chants from victors, it’s an incredibly varied collection of writings reflecting an intensely diverse amount of postures, moods, and perspectives. The Bible is a lot like how life really is. Sometimes you are furious with God, other times you are madly in love with Him.
We long to be rescued from our sameness, dullness, flatlined routine, reminding us that however we’re feeling, whatever we’re experiencing, wherever we are in our heart, the Spirit is waiting to rescue us from that and is willing to meet us where we are currently at.
And that takes us to Advent. Advent is a season. Lots of people know about holidays. Holidays are one day in a year that is set apart. For some that holiday has special meaning to them. For others, it is just an excuse not to have to go to work. Advent is not just a holiday though. It is a season. It is a whole period of time that we enter into with a specific cry, a particular intention, for a reason.
Advent is about anticipating the birth of Christ. it’s about longing, desire, that which is yet to come. That which isn’t here yet. And so we wait, expectantly, together. We wait with an ache. Because all is not right. Something is missing.
As my relationship with God has grown greatly over the last few years, the season of Advent has come to mean so much to me. Before then, it really didn’t have much meaning in my life. The question is then, why does Advent mean so much to me now?
I think it is because cynicism has become the new religion of our world. Whatever it is, this religion teaches that it isn’t as good as it seems. It will let you down. It will betray you. That institution. That church. That politician. That authority figure. They’ll all let you down. Whatever you do, don’t get your hopes up. Whatever you think it is, whatever it appears to be, it will burn you, just give it time.
Advent confronts this corrosion of the heart with the insistence that God has not abandoned the world. Hope is real and something great is coming. Advent charges into the temple of cynicism with a whip of hope, overturning the tables of despair, driving our the priests of that jaded cult, announcing there’s a new day and it’s not like the one that came before it. “The not yet will be worth it,” Advent whispers in the dark.
Simeon was an old man who was standing in the temple around the time of Jesus’ birth. He was waiting for Christ to come. When Mary brought the newly born Jesus to the temple, Simeon was allowed to hold the baby Jesus in his arms. Simeon rejoiced because now he could die because what he had been waiting for had finally arrived. The One who had the power to save all of us.
And so each December, we enter into a season of waiting, expecting, and longing. We let the Spirit meet us in our own aches. We ask God to enter into the deepest places of cynicism, bitterness and hardness where we have stopped believing that tomorrow can be better than today. We open up. We soften up. We turn our hearts in the direction of that day. That day when the baby cries his first cry and we, surrounded by shepherds and angels and everybody in between, celebrate that time that brings our Spirits what we’ve been longing for-the peace, harmony, and love that our souls long to experience. The only real question, is are we willing to accept this great miracle into our own hearts?