As we start this traditional season of Advent with acts of terrorism rampant both at home and abroad, with violence and cynicism rising, with war and division becoming so commonplace that it is sometimes hard to remember how to be hope-filled, I am struck by part of Paul’s letter to the Romans:
22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation.
The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting.
We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us.
But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.
Romans 8:22-25 (MSG)
Pregnancy. Birth pangs. New life and new possibilities.
The period of Advent — these four weeks leading up to celebrating the Birth of Christ — traditionally lift up four characteristics that Emmanuel (“God with us”) brings to our lives: Hope | Love | Joy | Peace. And yet, if you look at the Celtic traditions and other indigenous cultures surrounding Advent, they have more to do with things like the Breath of Heaven, Light vs. Darkness, Obedience, Birth and Re-Birth. They are very physical-body-oriented.
For those of us living in the 21st century western world, Advent is often commemorated by a calendar of chocolates … or a permanent wall hanging which has been passed down through the generations to mark the steady movement of days toward Christmas. But four weeks is such an arbitrary length of time to place on this important season of preparation. I don’t know about you, but I barely have time to figure out what I’m supposed to be preparing for in just four weeks.
It makes me wonder about the whole concept of a “revolving Advent” — a period of waiting and preparation … or expectation and dreaming … when new life is gestating / new possibilities are taking shape but are not yet completely formed.
Certainly, that’s what Mary and Joseph were experiencing, as does every person about to become a parent.
I remember the time leading up to my daughter’s birth in December, many years ago. The excitement and anticipation of that focus in our lives eclipsed everything else that was happening, and when she was born on the 14th, Christmas came early. Everything else paled in comparison.
That was a 9-month Advent.
Some of us have even longer periods of waiting in anticipation for things … graduation … a wedding … a vacation … retirement … surgery to be over so that healing can begin.
Advent is a state of mind, but it is also a state of heart and a state of being!
Considering Paul’s words to the Romans — it feels like we are all engaged in a larger (and longer) Advent Season in terms of our nation and our world right now. And just as Mary trusted that her baby would be a Child of the Light, that God would prevail over the world and its circumstances … so must we! For we are also Children of the Light. The Light has come into the world and the darkness has not, can not, and will not overtake it!
Those words that the Angel spoke to people back then are still being spoken by Angels to us today:
Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:10-11 (KJV)
May we, too, experience Advent Blessings in new and reassuring ways this Season, because it will all be ok in the end … and if it’s not ok … it’s not the end yet.
God is still speaking.
Thanks be to God!