image

“Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down!” (Isaiah 64:1)

Do you ever feel like that? So fed up and bowed down and pissed off that nothing short of the Second Coming has the smallest hope of making things right? (Yes, I am aware that the writer of those words didn’t have the Second Coming in mind.) Our world is so full of violence and suffering, from abused animals to AIDS orphans to police brutality to refugees in camps where they’re sitting ducks for their enemies, that I feel overwhelmed, certain that nothing I do can make any difference.

Advent is about that.

Our political process is polarized and cynical to the point where I struggle to see the humanity, much less the imago dei, in “those people,” though I know I must.

Advent is about that.

Our planet is screwed up, possibly beyond the point of no return. Our lovely blue planet, “this fragile earth, our island home.” I know that I have contributed to its wreckage, and I want to stop but I don’t know how.

Advent is about that.

I snap at telemarketers, overconsume while others do without, neglect my vocation, get irritated by noisy children. In short, like St. Paul I don’t do the things I want to do, but keep doing the things I hate. I long to see the face of God, till my desire tears me to pieces–and then I forget all about it and wonder how my latest book is being reviewed and what’s for lunch.

Advent is about that.

Advent: the season of longing, the season that celebrates desire. It’s that part of the church year dedicated to our desperate need to hope that Jesus wasn’t kidding, that all will be well, that the pure in heart will see God, and that maybe the “pure in heart” will include us.

I never get Advent right. I get all my shopping done before it begins so that it can be nice and peaceful, but then there’s finals, grading, prep for next quarter, in spite of my best efforts, the busiest part of the year. I put out my Advent wreath and forget to light the candles. I’ve been known to burn down the candle I neglected the whole past week so it’ll look right next to the new one. I decorate the tree and don’t take time to admire it in the darkness of morning. (And in the Northwest, there is no shortage of darkness, and no excuse.) I have left undone those things which I ought to have done; I have done those things I ought not to have done, and there is no health in me.

But Advent is for that. It’s for the hungry and homeless and tortured and suffering. But it’s also for those of us whose lives seem “together” but who are broken and weary, distracted and disheartened. It’s for all of us who have longed for things to be different, whatever the particulars.

Christmas is big: it blasts the trumpet and says, “Rejoice!” But Advent is a quiet whisper: Gaudete. It’s the same call to rejoice, but the language is more obscure, the call is only heard if you are listening.

Advent is about listening. Rejoice: everything you long for is on its way.