Welcome to my email inbox! I imagine yours is similar. Each time I open my email, I feel my anxiety rising. Black Friday has evolved over the course of my shopping lifetime. Stores began opening earlier and earlier - 6am, 5am, midnight, and finally, Thanksgiving day itself. I’m glad we have Small Business Saturday, even if it is sponsored by American Express. The advent of online shopping raised the stakes even further. Did you miss your “last chance” deals last week? No worries, we have Cyber Monday! If all of that buying leaves you feeling a little guilty, or empty, then Giving Tuesday is your chance to redeem yourself. Between all of that, plus the heated Senate runoff race in Georgia, it seems like everyone is all up in my Inbox, competing for time, money, and attention.
It struck me that the Revised Common Lectionary texts for these first few weeks of Advent tend to have the same urgent appeal. On the heels of Reign of Christ Sunday, the RCL would have us sitting in apocalyptic texts for weeks. Don’t miss out! Repent now! Don’t be caught without extra oil for your lamp! These texts were chosen for the season to remind us that we are still waiting. When you’ve been waiting, as a church, for nearly 2000 years for the return of Christ, it’s easy to forget that we are actually still waiting for something, not just Christmas itself.
This whole season has become so focused on consumption. That’s not all bad! Jesus spent quite a bit of time eating with people. Enjoying wine and good food, and conversation. He enjoyed the extravagance of a costly perfume, poured on his feet. He enjoyed time with his closest friends and family. And all the while he was waiting, and preparing, for what was ahead.
We can enjoy many of the same things - good food, time with people we love, and gifts - simple or extravagant. At the same time, we can remain attuned and connected with what is happening in our lives and in the world. All is not merry and bright. There are deep hurts and needs - in our lives and all around us. It can be tempting to mask all of that with consumption. Eat more! Drink more! Buy more! Stay busy and ignore the rest! If we do those things, just wait! - you’ll feel better soon.
But we’re not just waiting for things to pass, we are waiting for what is to come. We’re waiting for, and we anticipate, the day when all of the hurts and struggles and pain in the world will be no more. When Christ’s final reign will be realized - a reign of peace, justice, and righteousness.
Until then, we can stay connected and attuned to those places of hurt, knowing that God is already there. God has not abandoned us, nor has God abandoned the ultimate goal - the healing of all people and all of creation. We proclaim this hope, and so we can wait, even in the pain and suffering, knowing that it is not the last word. We can prepare by following the way of Jesus Christ - a path that we can only travel together.
It’s not an easy journey, but there is joy to be found. Joy made more profound because it doesn’t ignore the pain. Joy we don’t have to muster on our own, because we are invited to share the joy in community. Joy in the eating, and drinking, and sharing gifts of love with others. A foretaste of joy now, a sign and assurance of what is to come. Joy in the sorrow. Joy in the celebrations. Joy in the waiting and preparing.
Whether your joy is mingled with tears, robust with laughter and good cheer, or carried for you by this community of accompaniment, may this be a season of renewed hope, peace, joy, and love for all.
Grace and Peace,