Advent Matters

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P_Sarah

Advent has begun. Many of us are already preparing our homes and families to observe this season of the Church calendar.

But how could we possibly celebrate Advent if we are paying attention to this world?

How do we make merry when our hearts are broken by Paris, by Syria, by Kenya, by Beirut, by Japan, by Burundi? When, in response to every crisis, our communities seem splintered and divided in how to respond, and careless words are flung like rocks at our own glass houses? When, closer to home, perhaps we are lonely or bored or tired or sick or broke?

In these days, celebration can seem callous and uncaring, if not outright impossible.

But heres the thing about Advent: we celebrate precisely because we are paying attention.

It’s precisely because everything hurts that we prepare for Advent now.

We dont get to have hope without having grief. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to grieve. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason for why we need hope to begin with.

Advent matters, because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open.

The weary world is still waiting in so many ways, in so many hearts, in so many places, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come.

So here is what we listen for and what we mark and why we wait and light candles and read Scripture in preparation over these long winter nights: it’s real. The love, the peace, the joy, the hope is possible and it’s real and it’s among us already.

God is with us. The prophet Isaiah called out into the wilderness:

Energize the limp hands,

strengthen the rubbery knees.

Tell fearful souls,

Courage! Take heart!

God is here, right here,

on his way to put things right

And redress all wrongs.

Hes on his way! Hell save you!” —Isaiah 35:3-4

Advent is the Church’s way of observing and remembering, of marking the truth we believe that God came to be with us once, and God is still with us, and God is coming again to set all things right.

It’s holding the truth of what is right now up to the truth of what was and what will be and then responding, like Mary sang to Elizabeth in her Magnificat: blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!

It is declaring that we believe it still: God is redeeming all that is broken in us and curing all that is sick in us and bringing all that is dead in us to life.

It’s because of the heart of the story that we can light candles in the pressing and cold darkness, blazing up warmth and light for peace and for hope and for joy and for love.

Every word of God, the Word of God himself, is true and is coming true.

And Advent reminds us that God seeks us out where we are right now. Not where we should be by our own or anyone elses estimation.

God seeks us out when we are in exile and when we are suffering, when we are callous and cowardly, when we are more concerned with common sense than faithfulness, when we are fearful and arrogant, when we are lost and broken, when we feel forgotten and bored and insignificant and tired, when we are wounded and when we are the ones who are wounding.

Oh, yes, in these days, God is seeking us out on that path and in that wilderness. And the voice of the prophets of Advent cry out in that very place: Courage! Take heart! God is here, right here!

Immanuel, God with us. Incarnate and alive and now. Prepare your hearts: fear not.

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Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey is the author of Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith and Jesus Feminist. She is an award-winning blogger and writer who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband and their four tinies. You can find her online at SarahBessey.com or on Twitter at @sarahbessey.
Sarah Bessey

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  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    This is a powerful reminder, Sarah, that Christ has come and continues to come. You are right: It is so terribly difficult to celebrate His coming in the midst of such a pain-filled, broken world, when our alleluias turn to dirges (and especially, too, when we do not want to appear insensitive to the pain). But when Jesus first came, the world was just as broken. He chose to enter the pain–and ultimately His own. God with us, means He’s also with us in our pain–maybe especially so–because He experienced pain and grief more than any man. But He did so for the joy set before Him. Advent is a reminder that the joy is coming–the joy that will ultimately know no end. I appreciate this honest and hope-filled post. Blessed Advent to you.
    Lynn

  • “God came to be with us once, and God is still with us, and God is coming again to set all things right.”
    I’m teaching the kids in my church about Advent, and I can’t think of a better way to sum up the theological, the practical — even the emotional — understanding of what we mean when we talk about the incarnation.
    Thank you!

    • Love that, Michele – thank you for that work!

  • HBurns

    Perfect. Prepare your hearts: fear not. These words have been stirring in me as well for weeks Sarah. As the world is so dark our hope in the Saviour shines so bright. Immanuel.

    SO much love to you xoxo

  • Sarah I love the line: “we don’t get to have hope without having grief.” So many times I’ve heard those not yet faithful criticize Christ followers for being blind or in denial. Your words are a strong reminder that Advent is for both the now and the not yet and that’s precisely why we have hope. Thank you for this powerful post.

  • “It’s precisely because everything hurts that we prepare for Advent now.” sigh. Oh yes. Come, thou long expected Jesus.

  • Rea

    “And Advent reminds us that God seeks us out where we are right now…” So beautiful.

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    Amen. This I hold on to: “Advent reminds us that God seeks us out where we are right now. Not where we should be by our own or anyone else’s estimation.” Thank you Sarah.

  • carameredith.com

    It is BECAUSE of all the hurt that we enter into Advent. Thinking about your words in light of the shootings in San Bernardino today.

    • I hate how timely this reminder is yet again. Joining with you in thinking of San Bernadino.

  • Justine Hwang

    Thank you so much Sarah. I have been struggling with the juxtapositions and tensions between the “already and not yet”. It was tempting to let the dark win. But thank you for this reminder that Light leading to hope, joy, peace, love – always overcomes dark.

  • There’s so much here, Sarah. Thank you …

    THIS: ” … we don’t get to have hope without grief.”

  • How easy it is to let the darkness and pain overwhelm us. How thankful I am that our Hope does not disappoint. The true fulfillment may be in the future, but you’re so right, Sarah, that God is here, right here as well!

  • Amanda

    God is here, right here. Lovely as always. Immanuel is my favorite name of God.

  • In my walk with God, I have learned to see how He chooses pain as the path to healing and death as the path to life. There is nothing more beautiful than understanding we are not alone in our grief.

    Oh, yes, it matters!

    Thanks Sarah.

    http://williamsoyindamola.blogspot.com.ng/

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  • Reminds me of this: “Because what’s the point in them being happy now if they’re going to be sad later? The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later.” -Eleven

    And then we know there is ultimately a happy ending for us, just like there was for Madge and her kids.

  • Jory Micah

    Beautiful post, Sarah.

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