Advent Day 1: Waiting

This year I'm blogging through Advent season. The goal is to put up a shorter post every day in December on topics related to the holiday, and I'd like to toy with some different media (music, poetry, art). I may not stay faithful to the format, we'll see, but I'd thank you to come along on the journey with me anyway. I hope this can enhance your Christmas experience as I'm sure it will mine.

Happy Advent Sunday everybody!

Wait, you probably don't know what that means, huh?

That's alright, neither did I until, um... recently. Any guess why?

Bingo! It's because I'm an Evangelical Christian! Indeed, while I readily consider other branches of the Church to possess equal station in God's kingdom (Catholics, Methodists and Reformed-types alike) I happen to belong to a charismatic, Evangelical one. And I love it. Mostly. Sometimes.

By tradition we Evangelicals are averse to high church trappings, to rituals and ceremonies associated with liturgical Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism). After the Reformation and throughout the next several hundred years many arms of the Church shucked off even the vestiges of Roman ritual, and consequently lost touch with many beautiful, profound aspects of the historical faith. As such we don't often pay much notice to Advent season, which is the portion of the church calendar set aside to practice the expectant waiting of the Jews in pre-Christian Israel, anticipating their Messiah to come and set them free from Roman occupation and oppression.

Waiting. Maybe it's because we no longer practice the Advent discipline, or perhaps because we are just an impatient, impulsive people but Americans (myself included) are not very good at waiting. The common wisdom seems to be if we can't have it now it's not worth having.

Which feeds right into the consumer impulse. Why wait for satisfaction in a relationship or in your professional life when you can just buy nicer stuff?

And why wouldn't we? We have all the resources at our disposal to distract us from every harsh feeling, to smooth out the rough with food, with phones, with facebook friends.

I don't mean to paint with too broad a brush here; I understand many Americans struggle to make ends meet. I have, at various points in my life been one of them. Still, it's hard to deny we live in a culture saturated in this make-the-bad-go-away-now ethic.

But what might happen if we didn't numb the angst with consumption? With food, with possessions, with drugs, music and parties? What if, instead, we wait?

Wait for God to show up. Wait for God to come down. Wait for Him to set things right, to set us free not only from the depression but from the addiction we count on to sate the depression.

We have it bad, in a spiritual sense, but imagine what it must have been like to be a Jew, two thousand years ago, waiting for God to fulfill His promise. By the point of Christ's coming Israel had been occupied by various nations, peoples and tribes for generations. No one alive remembered what it was like to be free. All they had was the old legend, the promise that God loved and had chosen them. When we practice solidarity with them, across time and space, we can learn to wait, actively, expectantly and faithfully, and we will be better off when we do.

Granted, it's hard to wait. It's hard to trust things will get better when all evidence points to the contrary. But that is what Advent is all about. Wait. Wait in the silence to hear God speak His promises. But don't wait alone. Reach out. Pick up the phone. Dance together in the silence, wait for the music to start. It will. Because God promised it will.

Adventus. Parousia. The coming and second coming of God. God who put on skin to come down and live with the Israelites, who heard their cries, and has promised to come again, not just some day but now.

God incarnates, steps down to walk with us. That's what He does. Advent means waiting, but pray we don't have to wait long.

"And the Lord said: 'I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey,'"

Exodus 3:7-8a


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