I’ve learned how much the Advent season holds, how it breaks into our lives with images of light and dark, first and last things, watchfulness and longing, origin and destiny. ~ Kathleen Norris
What is Advent anyway? An advent is about something or someone coming/arriving. The “Advent” of the Church year that we are experiencing now is about waiting. It’s about darkness. It’s about lament. It’s about rescue. About hope. About preparing for the coming of light. About birth. About rejoicing. About Hallelujah. About Jesus. About Holy Spirit Power. About suffering and sacrifice. About Revolution. About the Kingdom of God. Did I say about waiting? Yes.
I know a great deal about waiting. Most of us do when we think about it. I am a mother who gave birth to five children. The waiting was hard – especially for the first one when, even though I was expecting, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even really know when to expect the arrival of the little person. There were many questions. What will he/she be like? Boy or Girl? Will I be able to handle this responsibility? Will I be able to wake up in the night for whatever is expected of me? Etc.
This year has been one of waiting as well. We were moving into a different house. We thought we knew which one, but we were never completely sure it that we had it right. Interim arrangements for living had to be made while we waited. Should we look elsewhere? We tried even that. We waited. We expected. We prayed.
We lost family members and friends with whom we waited as did they. We suffered through presidential campaigns. Aren’t we still. We thought we were done with that. We waited.
We ask, “Where is God?”
We pray, “Come, Lord, Jesus. When will you return?” We wait. We hope. We pray. But we would like to avoid the hard work of waiting. We would even like to avoid the hard work of looking for God where he is, even now, in the world.
Advent is a season in which, while darkness grows-and we can observe that, we are called to stay awake. But, like the disciples waiting while Jesus prayed in the garden, the temptation to sleep – both literally and figuratively – is strong. We often would rather not notice. However, the call of Advent is to “Wake Up”, to pay attention, to notice the Kingdom of God in our midst, to help in creating it where we are in whatever little (or big) ways we are called, even when we can’t see that it is helping. This reminds me of this quote by Winn Collier. He said, “I’ll do the waiting the watching, God, and you do the Adventing. I assume you’ll do it on your own schedule – that seems to be the way it works.” True. Right? Let God do it.
So in the meantime – the Advent time – what, specifically, do we do to help usher in the Kingdom of God in fullness? For each of us, I don’t know. We continue our preparations to celebrate Christmas, but not at the expense of our Advent. We watch and pray. We pay attention and God will show us – will tell us. I find that when I do this, it is usually small assignments that I am given such as – Talk to that person in the church lobby on Sunday Morning. Pay attention to someone who looks like they need help. Smile at the harried cashier in the store. Pray for those on the prayer list. Look around. Pay attention. Spend time with God.
Teresa of Calcutta says, “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.” “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” And this one, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” She is a good example for us this Advent.
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. ~ Romans 13:11-12a