Advent

Bearing the 'Wait' of the World

The Word of God is steadfast and faithful. This is the promise and the witness of scripture. We are called to remember this promise. God is active in history and in our local and global communities, offering mercy that both comforts and baffles us. The Word of God speaks of restoration. It lives fully into its covenantal relationships. It offers a peace too deep and wide for anything less than poetry to hint at it. The Word of God is the stuff of visions and dreams. It is the calling of prophets. It is the witness of disciples. It fosters unlikely relationships. It is a transformation that requires patience and painful self-assessment. The Word invites us to mimic God’s healing care. It is for us and beyond us. It extends to those we would rather not think about or be concerned with. The Word of God is the fulfillment of all hope, all longing, and all waiting. As such, this Word demands preparation.

In the season of Advent we dwell on what it means to bear the “wait” of the Word. What does preparation look like? How do we encourage one another to wait faithfully? How do we receive God’s comfort when it may not seem like enough for our present circumstances? What or whom are we tempted to mistake for the Light because we are so desperate to be restored from an illness so few of us even recognize we have?

Enuma Okoro, of Durham, North Carolina, is the author of Reluctant Pilgrim and co-author of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.

[December 4]
A Posture of Waiting
Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13;
2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

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'Say, Say the Light'

EVERY FEW YEARS I rediscover a song by R.E.M., "You are the Everything." It juxtaposes despair over the state of things ("Sometimes I feel like I can't even sing / I'm very scared for this world") with deceptively simple memories: A starry sky. The sensations of a random moment long ago. The feel of our own bodies. The sight of someone beloved ("I look at her and I see the beauty / of the light of music").

This song gives me cathartic comfort when the news seems too much to bear. It doesn't erase famine, wars, rumors of wars, a friend's bad pathology report, or my concern over the body politic. But my position shifts; I anchor myself to the beauty of creation, to the miracle of being an embodied soul, to the fragile graces of human relationship, and to the One who brought it all into being. Thin guy wires of memory and spirit steady me against sweeping currents of events, so that I can focus on them, yet not drown.

This tension, between the cares of the world and transcendence, for me typifies Advent. The scriptures recount woe and warnings of the end times. Can we not, in our time, relate to the words of Isaiah about his time, his people? "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (Isaiah 64:6). Can we watch YouTube videos of tsunami surges and noncombatants in the crosshairs, crumpling as the bullets hit, and not be able to imagine, at least a little: "But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken" (Mark 13:24-25)? Maybe we relate to why so many generations of believers could long for this, the ultimate clean slate: "the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire" (2 Peter 3:12).

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Nine Tips to Help You Survive Advent

Since Advent is often a time of welcoming relatives to the home, make an effort to include them in the family Christmas traditions they missed out on last year, such as loading the dishwasher, making their own beds, and picking up after themselves.

Decorating the outside of your house is a great way to show the neighbors how important Advent is to your family. And remember, it’s not a competition to see whose house is the best on your block, although if your lights are not bright enough to interfere with the navigation of passing jetliners then, frankly, you’re just not feeling the true Christmas spirit.

Tread Lightly During Spring Break Travel

My family, while I was growing up, was not much for spring breaks. As other families we know flitted about preparing for palm trees and sand, my sister and I would pout and lament to my mother that we had the worst lives on the planet because we were not going to Florida. My Mom (and I now love her for this) really didn’t care. Her basic attitude was that we had more than enough adventure in our lives so suck it up and stop whining. Call another friend who stayed home and get out of the house.

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