No Longer at Ease: Advent 2016

Wait for it…

The season of advent is sometimes a hard one to wrap my head around, really; I noticed that carols were being pumped through the speakers at the mall weeks before Thanksgiving, while I was hunting for new wool socks in preparation for winter. We think of advent as a season of hope; of waiting; of anticipation for the arrival of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is a season of hindsight; we know how this ends!

We try to embrace the mysteries of this season—both in our worship and in our day-to-day lives. And yet, it seems a shocking surprise every year that our savior is not a mighty king at first glance—no, our messiah comes as a brown-skinned baby born to refugee parents in what we now call the Middle East. What does this mean for us? Surely, this season is more than the pre-game party to Christmas, right?

Pastor James recently introduced me to a poem by T.S. Eliot called “The Journey of the Magi.” I would encourage you to look it up to read the whole thing, but the final stanza stuck out to me, in particular. One of the wise men describes their encounter with the newborn Christ by writing:

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

So here we are, anticipating the birth of the messiah, born in a body, in a time, and in a place that is totally and completely unexpected. And, like the magi grieves that God has interrupted his predictable, comfortable world, what kind of grieving do we have to do before the birth? What expectations do we have for what God looks like, and where God shows up that will likely not materialize?

This year, for me, advent is a time of grieving the death of my own expectations. For me, advent is a time to simply be in a state of anticipation, even as Christmas carols play preemptively in shopping malls. During this church season in this particular epoch when people in our communities who look more like Jesus did than I do are quite literally afraid for their safety and sense of belonging and belovedness, I will commit to putting my faith and hope in a God who over and over again comes to the poor, who need a Savior. Will you join me?

Wait for it…

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