The rhythms of the Christian seasons help us know where we are supposed to be right now. While the Christmas shopping season which fuels our economy is already well underway, Advent begs us to stop and enjoy the Wintertide’s questions. Advent is a time of waiting and longing. We ask ourselves, what is it that we are working and waiting for? These are not idle questions, for in our working and waiting we give shape to our hopes for the big picture, the in-breaking Kingdom of God.
I find the coincidence of Advent and the Christmas shopping season deadly, for Advent reminds us of the many ways we are not fulfilled, we are not yet what we would like to be, that God’s kingdom is still adventing—it is still yet-to-arrive—while the shopping season seduces us by offering to fill our needs while equating generosity with purchasing.
Advent reminds us that our deepest longings are for those gifts only God can give, while stirring us to actively seek them in the community of God’s people and in fervent prayer (the kind of prayer that isn’t finished on one’s knees but in one’s actions to become an answer to our prayer) in fervent prayer for the healing of God’s world. Advent highlights the many ways that grief and hope are related. But we do not wait in vain. God is always coming, always comes, God comes. God is not forever delayed.
In this season of Advent, the prophet’s cry “O that you would rend the heavens and come down” is the cry that comes from seeing the relentless, regularized, destructive power of “the way things are” and the stakes involved in challenging them and changing them.
We ask the larger questions in Advent that force us to look at our lives and ask what is it that we’re working and waiting for—and if we discover that our daily work and our waiting fosters death rather than life, then to take responsibility to engage, as the Hebrew prophets encourage us, in תקון עולם: that is, the healing of our world.
This Advent, we too are called to ask what is it that we’re working and waiting for—and to enter with faith into a partnership with God and with all people in bringing about the incarnation of that new world.