I have always loved Advent, with its flurry of excitement and expectation. I even love the premature Christmas carols that float ominously over my head in the store, igniting a bit of consumer panic in my belly. But it’s not only the good cheer of anticipation that I’m aware of, there’s also another sort of longing that seeps into these holy days. There’s something deeper that flows under the shelves of wrapping paper and bows, and underlying sense that things are not quite right.
We know that the deeper stream is there because it comes out in our personal lives in different ways: anxiety surrounds upcoming family gatherings, stress flares in the midst of end-of-the-year economic burdens, and depression becomes irritated with the seasonal lack of sunlight.
The longing deepens when we think of the world. We are more mindful of those who struggle in poverty and homelessness. We become acutely aware of those who live with illness and disease. And our yearning for peace grows so strong as we join in that ancient dream that our nations would finally beat the swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. We don’t want to learn war any more.
My prayer is that these persistent tensions that stream through Advent do not lull us into a stagnant depression, but into a deeper, richer hope. My prayer is that when we gather together as people of God, that hope will be ignited so that we might continue our work in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and caring for the sick. My longing is that we might see ourselves as partners in bringing about the reign of God in our community and in our world.