There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on the earth distress among nations confused
by the roaring of the sea and the waves….
Like the faithful dawning of the morning sun, the season of Advent rises once again. The season of expectation breaks into the rhythms of our lives, reminding us of God’s relentless love for all humanity in the person of the infant Jesus. This season of hope disrupts and interrupts our focus on the harsh reality around us – a reality woven with the signs of distress, confusion, fear, and foreboding. The Lukan text paints a picture of the end-times, which frankly feels and sounds like our times.
I confess – I do not feel ready for Advent. I have not been thrilled with the department store marketing that exhibited Christmas decorations right after Halloween. I do not feel ready for Advent. I find myself in that spiritual abyss that is darkened by the grief, sadness, losses, senseless violence, natural disasters, political hyperbole, racism, and other -isms of our times. I do not feel ready for Advent. I am not one who enjoys the chaos of holiday shopping. I do not feel ready for Advent! It requires attention to all the end-of-year administrative tasks that can be so tedious.
So you see, I really do not feel ready for Advent – there is no room in my mere mortal existence for anything else….. but maybe this is precisely the gift of Advent. Our existential feelings really do not matter.
In a world of apocalyptic-like disasters, brokenness, and emotions, Advent confronts our “existential angst” head-on, ushering us into a journey of hope. As we light the first candle on the Advent Wreath this Sunday, we are escorted into a new reality and sacred claim. It is God’s reality and claim that boldly invites us to “stand up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28). It is the reality of God who promises to have the last word – a word claimed and repeated each year for four Sundays as we light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love.
Through the journey of this Advent season, we will again be transported into those transforming moments more than 2,000 years ago that continue to transform the moments of our lives today. We will again encounter beloved Gospel images and narratives – of John the Baptist preparing the way in the wilderness, of Mary singing “my soul magnifies the Lord,” of Joseph and the expectant Mary travelling over land to the little town of Bethlehem, of their being rejected and denied a place in the land where they sought refuge, of the birth in a humble manger of the infant Jesus, as angels’ voices echoed throughout the evening sky.
So perhaps the truth is that this annual pilgrimage is not about you or me. I do not need to be ready for Advent – for it is precisely in my lack of readiness, in the messiness of this world, in the rhythms of my busyness that Advent – this season of hope – claims me yet again. It claims me; it claims you; it claims us through the faithful call of God reminding us that the chaos of this world has not, does not, and will not have the final word. That final word has always been – and will always be – reflected in God’s love.