Nov. 29, 2017 O Come, O Come!
Though Advent (literally “arrival”) has been observed for centuries as a period of time to contemplate Christ’s birth, most people today acknowledge it only with a blank look. I’ve never found Advent cards in any seasonal display in any shop. And trying to find Advent blue candles amidst the stacks of red and green evokes quite the treasure hunt! For the vast majority of us, December flies by in a flurry of activities, and what is called “the holiday season” turns out to be the most stressful time of the year. For me that makes the season of Advent even more important, especially when I intentionally accept the gift this holy season offers. I admit there have been years when I’ve simply added Advent to my ever growing to do list. And no surprise those were the years when my perfunctory Advent wreath lighting and daily opening of the Advent calendar were just that- mechanical and not particularly transformative. This year let us together pause, not in spite of but right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, so that together we might enter the season of Advent ready to ponder anew what the Almighty can do.
The evergreen Advent wreaths, the haunting and lovely ancient Advent hymns, the insistent cries of the prophets, especially that wonderfully wild John the Baptizer, will beckon to us so we will not miss it. And what is it? Something momentous: God’s coming into our midst! And that coming of God is not just something that happened in the past. It is a recurring possibility here and now…in the midst of hustle and bustle and uncertain economic times and whatever particular stressor we each endure.
That’s why we’ll make and light our Advent wreaths, enjoy a chili supper and one another’s company as we read the Gospel of Mark in its entirety one early Advent evening. That’s why we’ll sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” when all the world around us is knee deep in Jingle Bells and Frosty the Snowman. That’s okay- God can handle it. We do not observe Advent for God. We observe Advent (to paraphrase a seasoned football coach) to refine our muscle memory: To spend the first twenty-four days of December contemplating the arrival, the advent, of the greatest Gift of all.