A storm’s brewing.
It comes with great gusts of wind, air moving with such force that it lifts Katie’s plastic Adirondack chair from the patio and deposits it down the hill. Pine needles and branches and outdoor detritus strike our windows and roof in waves, sounding like rain before any drops fall. The sky is dark. I turn on all the lights and the full bright of incandescent bulbs chases away the gloom inside.
The world is a dark place, rife with pain and brokenness. You don’t need me to tell you this; you can read the news as well as I do. You can see your own heart, your own fractured relationships, your own shortcomings. You live here, on this planet. You don’t need me to tell you all is not as it should be.
I grew up in a Protestant, Evangelical non-liturgical tradition, and so the Church calendar is somewhat unfamiliar to me. Advent was a foreign concept, really; instead, we celebrated Christmas for the entire month of December.
It was a Christian celebration, or, perhaps, a hybrid one, one that involved church concerts and readings from Luke and nativity scenes in addition to the pine trees and gifts and stockings. We listened to “O, Holy Night” and “Frosty the Snowman,” “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bells.” We had Advent Calendars, cross-stitched by Grandma, hung with small gifts for each of the twenty-four days leading up to Christmas.
As a child, I anticipated the gifts, the excitement of Christmas morning. All month, I looked forward to December 25th, but the Christ-Child was in the manger the entire time.
As a child, my celebration of Christmas was good. It was beautiful and fun and about Christ, and I felt no lack.
But now, as an adult, I find myself longing for something else, something more. Now, as an adult, it seems wrong, somehow, to jump immediately to the joy, to the celebration, without first observing the sorrow and the waiting.
I’m feeling the tug to repent, the call to fall on my face before the Lord of all creation, to mourn the state of the world, the state of my own heart. To confess and then to wait, in eager expectation, for the promised Messiah.
Here, in the midst of threats of terror, the news of broken people doing horrific things, of shootings and violence and mayhem, where families and lives and hearts are torn apart, where there is so much pain and suffering and sorrow, I am desperate for an answer, for a way to make things right. I yearn for a way out. For peace. For hope. For light.
And this – this is Advent. This yearning, this longing, this hope.
In the dark, as the storm brews outside, I light a candle. I hold it aloft, my small stand against the darkness as I anticipate the return of the Morning Star, the Light of the World. I wait for his full bright to come, to chase away the gloom.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.