Advent is an invitation to plunge into the deep, dark waters of our worst world, knowing that when we re-surface for air we will encounter the hopeful, hovering Spirit of God. For when we dive into the depths of our worst world, we reach a critical point at which our chocolate and pageants no longer satiate our longing for hope – and we are liberated by this realization. Indeed, the light of true hope is found in the midst of darkness. – Christina Cleveland (Check out her incredible Advent post here!)
Advent has always been my favorite season of the church year. There’s something about the anticipation, the preparation for the grand celebration that is Christmas, and the good news that it all brings. My favorite Advent memories fill me with warmth: baking Christmas cookies, decorating the tree, lighting the Advent wreath, counting down the days with chocolate-filled Advent calendars, listening to Christmas music, preparing for the Sunday School Christmas program, shopping for those perfect gifts. While I cherish these traditions and love the sense of community they bring, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been crucially missing what is perhaps the most meaningful part of the Advent season: the recognition of the world’s devastating brokenness and the consequential deep longing for redemption, for the presence of Emmanuel, God with us. Suddenly this year, in the wake of Ferguson and on a more personal level as I find myself immersed in the lives of my brothers and sisters experiencing poverty, homelessness, domestic abuse, and mental illness, Advent seems to carry so much more weight. This year, I am longing for hope as well as a chance to lament, and each verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel carries with it a desperate longing, a yearning for light and liberation. A yearning that leaves me asking, “How long?”
How long until the cruel effects of racism are merely sobering memories discussed in history books? How long until we live in a world where children are no longer homeless? How long until people suffering from mental illness are able to find the help and support they need, without the fear of stigma and isolation? How long until we can be freed of the traps of the consumerism and greed that drive our daily choices, even at the expense of others? How long until violence no longer frequents our homes, schools, and streets? How long until the harsh realities of sexism no longer result in domestic abuse, education and income inequality, and even the murdering of young girls around the world? How long until the LGBTQ community feels welcome and loved in our churches and in our homes? How long until we finally decide that enough is enough, that God’s love and grace really does extend to all people and that all of us share in the responsibility of bringing God’s Kingdom to earth, right here, right now?
With these questions in mind, let us all join together as we await the coming of our Emmanuel. But, even in our waiting, let us not be afraid to be called into action. After all, “What does the Lord require of [us]? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [our] God.” Especially now, in this season of Advent, as we enter into the darkness and boldly embrace the Light that is found within.