Advent. A season of waiting. A season that invites us to pause, reflect, light some candles, and hope.
However, when I’m honest this moment in the semester makes this “season” seem impossible. These final two weeks are filled with deadlines, papers, exams, rehearsals, celebrations, campus traditions — and a desire to just get it all done. Maybe the desire to be done is the waiting part that works. We wait for the end of the crazy schedule, the demands, and the overwhelming “to do” list. However, an invitation to pause, be still, and reflect might even bring about a laugh of absurdity. I find myself almost thinking, “I’ll just do a couple weeks of Advent when the semester is over, that’s when I’ll have time for Advent.” However, I know that around the corner from the semester craziness is the list of other “holiday to do lists” … family traditions, gifts to be purchased, presents to wrap, people to catch-up with, and, hopefully, finally sleeping. It’s no wonder that Advent can be missed; it just doesn’t fit in the way the world tells us to “prepare for Christmas.”
In fact just the other night my daughter noticed a Christmas tree without a star on the top. After pointing this out, she said, “They aren’t going to get to have Christmas if they don’t get a star, right, Mommy?” I shocked her when I said, “They will totally still have Christmas, and they will even have Christmas without a Christmas tree, or decorations, or even presents.” She had wide and confused eyes and said, “But how?” I responded, “Because Jesus still shows up and is born even if we don’t have any of this stuff. God doesn’t need you to have the Christmas stuff; that is just something we do to add to the fun, but God doesn’t need it.”
That’s the crazy thing about God. God tends to show up in inconvenient, unexpected, and counter-cultural ways. That is why Advent invites us into a different kind of preparation, waiting, and a time of hope. Advent interrupts the craziness of the world around us — a world that tells us it is about what we have, what presents we buy, what our social calendar looks like, and how things should look perfect. Yet when the light of truth shines — not from dazzling Christmas trees and perfectly decorated houses — we see the shadows cast behind the facade, shadows filled with oppression, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, ableism, ageism, and more brokenness. In the face of this truth, Advent invites us into a time of preparation and a time of hope.
Sarah Bessey recently wrote, “Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be.” That is the type of hope we are invited to be a part of in Advent. It is a hope that begins not with songs of this being a wonderful time of the year or with shiny Christmas trees or even with lists of what we hope will show up in our stockings. Advent hope begins with leaning into the places of brokeness and shadow in our world. Advent preparation means being honest about the places of injustice and oppression that have tried to build walls to block out the light of Christ, the light of life, the light of love.
The word advent means “coming” and we are preparing not for the coming of Santa but of Emmanuel – God with us.
As we prepare for the Christ child of Christmas it isn’t about having trees with stars, or even whether we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Having the Christ child as part of Christmas is to join in the unexpected, inconvenient, mysterious ways of God turning the world upside down so that those cast low are raised, those oppressed are freed, those cast out are welcomed.
Advent is a time where we listen and join in the song put on the lips of a young unwed teenage woman living under oppression who was given the responsibility of bearing the Christ child. I don’t think this pregnancy could be considered expected or convenient. Yet in the midst of all that, Mary sings a song of promise and hope. She sings as if the things God has promised have already happened, even as her daily life makes it clear they have not. May we all join in singing the song of hope….
And Mary sang,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)
Dec. 4, 2019