We begin again, this season of Advent.
Not everyone enjoys beginning something over again. Starting over usually means that previous efforts/ attempts haven’t taken, or have fallen through somehow. For most of us, the thought of starting something again is exhausting, not exhilarating or exciting.
What we miss though, is that starting over again isn’t a punishment at all—it’s a grace. We slow our steps this season, and if we are intentional, we look at where we’ve been, and name out loud in prayer where we would like to ‘go’ this time around. And somewhere between the ‘what has happened’ and ‘where our hope lies’, the mystery of Advent—waiting for the end and the beginning all at once—occurs.
Beginnings always come after an ending. We live them each day, some more visceral than the last. Advent is that nuanced time of both ending and beginning overlapping. The stories we will read in the beginning of this season aren’t holly-jolly—they are about endings, destruction, plans gone awry. Some of us can relate to those feelings all too well.
Stay with our readings past the third week of Advent (the turning point usually comes with the pink, 3rd, candle on our Advent wreath!), and those stories of carnage turn a corner into possibility. When things are torn down, there is room for new growth, new hope, renewed expectations. We look not to our own disappointments, but to the deep need for God to be with us in the midst of the carnage, whether personal, communal or world-wide. We realize with each candle, that our hope is not in ourselves—doing it all alone, through sheer effort and grit—but that our hope lies in the love of a God who wishes to be with us not in the glory, but in the muck of ordinary existence.
The world will regularly disappoint us if we imagine that we are alone. But anticipating the incarnation—that God wishes to be with us; has been with us in Jesus; will always be with us—that changes things. It makes this world not a profane place, but one which can hold holiness and redemption if we seek it and enact it.
Do you need an Advent-tide this year? Do you need to look at what has been left undone and underdone and empty? Do you need to name the disappointment before you can ready yourself for the simple joy of the holy infant? Do you need to walk slowly and gently into what has not been, so that we can ask, name and pray, deep in December, for what might be ahead?
We’ll get to holly and jolly, friends. We always do! (And we do it rather well here at St James!) In these four weeks, join us for prayer and simplicity, so that when the sky is illuminated with the heavenly host, we are ready to see in it the truest grace and love.
Walking slowly with you all, friends—