Week two of our joyful anticipation. How we doing with that?
Advent is the Christian church’s designated time of reflection and waiting. Which is basically what we’ve been doing for all of 2020, so there’s that. But I’ve learned one thing this year: we’re not so good at reflecting and waiting.
Right this very moment you might be feeling anxious, worried, on edge. Maybe you’re having to change special plans – again. You might be fed up at work, fighting for your health, angry at the losses which keep piling up, embarrassed because you can’t pay the bills. Perhaps, even, grieving the death of someone dear to you.
In a world so on edge it’s easier to forge ahead unthinking, pumpkin chai latte in hand, than it is to sit in the silence of waiting and not knowing. But Advent invites us to both. In fact, I believe Advent is less about willing ourselves to be patient, peaceful and joyful despite our circumstances, and more about holding the tension between all of the realities of our existence. Because the truth is we rarely show up with just one emotion or thought. Humans are always a complicated mix. We can hold both sadness and joy. We can feel loss and be at peace. We can be both distressed at the broken world and hopeful for its renewal. We can doubt the existence of God, even, and still hold space for the “what if.”
Regardless of what the world looks like right now, or what is unfolding in your lives at this tender moment, this time of waiting on the birth of Jesus is an invitation to live both-and. Advent, if we allow it, causes us to heighten our awareness of God-with-us. It invites us to trust just a little bit more. It invites us to trust that we can navigate the unfamiliar, uncharted, messy, sometimes painful experience of being human, precisely because God is with us.
The celebration of the birth of Christ is our collective remembering that we are not alone. God entered into the world as one of us, slipping into the flesh and bones of a beautiful infant, beloved of Mary and Joseph and of a weary world. Jesus came to show us how to live and to bring us back to God again. We don’t always get that right, but of this we can be sure: he is right here with us as we try.
Yes, Advent is about and the anticipation of Christmas. But make no mistake: Christ is already here.