I just finished Tish Warren’s little jewel, Advent: The Season of Hope. With chapter themes like yearning, longing, crying out and stirring, she brings the season into sharper focus. Warren holds before us the invitation of Advent, observing, “Christmas with its compulsory jollification and insistence on being the ‘hap-hap-happiest season of all’ devolves into saccharine escapism if we do not first take note of the darkness in the world and in our own lives.” Apparently, Advent is not for the faint of heart.
Likewise Fleming Rutledge, in Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, describes the current Pre-Advent season as “a time of looking back and straining forward, a time of patient waiting and urgent watchfulness, a time uniquely designed to lift us out of our personal concerns onto the cosmic stage where God’s purposes for the universe are being carried out.” As the present church year ends and another begins with the first Sunday of Advent, we are already anticipating the waiting and watchfulness of Advent. We prepare not by setting aside our personal stories, but rather remembering that they are situated within a much larger story—the wondrous story of God’s loving rescue of all things in Christ.
Rutledge explains, “As the church year draws to a close, the Scripture lessons begin to exert an unmistakable pressure, as though circumstances of our lives were becoming intolerable, as though everything was coming loose, as though all we were counting on was slipping from our grasp, as though all the losses and disappointments and betrayals were going to force themselves upon us in spite of our frenetic efforts to hold them at bay.” Loss, disappointment, betrayal. We Anglicans sure know how to keep it real.
Advent, it seems, requires a certain amount of courage. Courage to admit the brokenness in our world and in us. But at the same time, Advent reveals that there is far more to the story. Margaret Guenther notes, “While brokenness is a presupposition of our humanity… God is with us in our brokenness.” Not only is God with us in our frailty, Guenther continues, “the whole message of the gospel is that we are intended to be whole… Christ’s mission of healing is a mission of the restoration of wholeness.” Just when we are about to despair, Advent meets us with hope. Yes, we are undoubtedly broken, but as we remember weekly in the receiving of the Eucharist, God chose to be broken for us. And through Christ’s solidarity with us, he is making us whole.
It is that realism, that truth-telling, that mix of despair and hope, brokenness and wholeness, darkness and light that makes Advent so very appealing. Recently my friend noted that Advent is her favorite time of year. The time of year with which she most resonates. The time which rings most true. I too find a great deal of resonance with this time of year, and I hope you will join me in a gentle day of guided reflection and prayer on the day before Advent begins. A conscious resistance to saccharine escapism, a courageous recognition of the darkness, but also solidarity with the Light. The One who came for our healing.
Register today for the Advent Guided Day Retreat, God of Wonders: Saturday, December 2, 9 am to 3 pm at Trinity Lakeside Abbey. See the Retreat page for details. Or, go straight to the Register page to reserve your place. Space is limited.