Every year my sister sends me this meme or a version of it on Facebook.
She alternatively titles it “TC’s approach to Advent and Lindsey’s approach to Advent”. I’m clearly Will Ferrell’s Elf and she is the King from Lord of the Rings… and she’s not wrong. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I start watching Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music, putting up decorations, and generally become holly and jolly! I feel like I’ve already waited a WHOLE MONTH since Halloween, while other friends and family are putting up decorations and started Christmas, so why should I wait any longer?!? I mean, come on! How long do I have to wait?
In the last few years, however, I’ve found that Advent becomes more when it’s not just the season when it starts to be ok to do Christmas stuff, but a season where we live into the agony of waiting, of not knowing, of hoping beyond hope. I’m sure that one of my esteemed colleagues has by now told you that Advent is a remembrance of the waiting that Israel did for a messiah. So the short version is, roughly 500 years elapsed from the time the book of Isaiah prophesized a messiah and the time when we believe Jesus fulfilled that prophesy.
500 years! That’s a lot of waiting. That’s 17 generations waiting and hoping, and then most of those generations dying without having that hope realized. That’s something being promised to your great-great-grandfather that won’t come to be until your great-great-great-(add seven more “great”s) grandchild’s life.
It is hard to comprehend this kind of waiting. Imagine, if you might, that this year, 2020, and all it’s waiting, waiting to see friends, waiting to feel safe, waiting until we don’t have to wear masks, imagine if that world lasted our entire life. Then we’d have some semblance of what the Israelite’s Advent was like.
But even knowing all this, it’s easy to skip to Christmas… because we know how the story ends. Jesus does come, Christmas does happen, angels sing, shepherds spread the news, JOY TO THE WORLD! But while that specific Advent is over and we know the story ends, there are Advents in the world that are still happening. This is where the true meaning of Advent for me comes.
There are people in our world who are constantly living in a state of waiting, of hoping: waiting for the next bill and hoping they can cover it; waiting for the next kind stranger to give them help and hoping they’ll collect enough to eat tonight; waiting for the doctor to call and hoping it’s not bad news; waiting for the next attack and hoping they can get their family to safety first. All throughout the world there are Advent stories and we, like they, hope those stories lead to a Christmas morning.
It is in this space, this Advent space that we are called. Called to be a voice of hope, a hand of change, an angel to herald the glory, a star to shine the path. We are called to help those in Advent how ever we can.
So for the next few weeks, my focus in my devotionals is going to be to live into Advent and what it means in our world today… and just to add one more layer, because I always have to make things more complicated than they need to be, I’m going to focus these devotionals through sharing what I deem to be “Advent Songs” (sorry Adam, I’m taking the song angle… you can find something else ;p).
For the next few weeks, let us see ourselves in the story, yes, but more than that, let us see the story in our lives today and be moved to act because of it.