Here we are again at the beginning of a new liturgical year. As many of you will know, the Church calendar begins its new year not on January 1, but on the First Sunday of Advent – which is always four Sundays before Christmas (December 25) and the Sunday closest to St. Andrew’s Day (November 30). Our word “advent” comes from the Latin “adventus”, which means “coming”.This is a season of waiting, expectation and preparation as we look both to the celebrating the birth of Jesus, and also to his second coming.
Each year, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and we hold the past close to our hearts as we remember that night when God came to be with us, in Jesus. We also look to the future, yearning for his second coming, and God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. When will that be? What will it look like? No one knows. This leaves us with the question “What are we doing in the present?” Advent becomes an opportunity to root ourselves in the present, and in God’s presence.
Last Sunday I shared with you Parker Palmer’s invitation to us as followers of Jesus to stand in the “tragic gap”. On one side of the gap we look at the hard realities around us: poverty, anger, hatred, greed, despair, conflict, violence. We see all of that, everywhere. On the other side of where we’re standing are those things we know to be possible: hope, peace, joy, love. We’ve seen greed, but we’ve also seen generosity. We’ve seen rampant and competitive individualism, but we’ve also seen collaboration and community. What we need to do to “stay in the action” is to stand in the tragic gap without flipping onto one side or the other: too much of the hard realities and we become cynical. Too much of the other side and we’re into irrelevant idealism. These two sides sound very different, but they’re actually the same. They take us out of the action, and leave us doing nothing. To stay “in the action” we have to stand in the “tragic gap”.
Advent invites us to hold the past close to our hearts and to acknowledge what we long for in the future. We have an opportunity this Advent season to stand in the tragic gap, holding the suffering in our lives and in our world along with the hope, peace, joy and love that we know are possible. We have an opportunity to remind ourselves that God came to be with us in all of it: that God is with us in the tragic gap. This grounds us, holds us in our in our longing, infusing it with hope, with peace, with joy and with love.
Last year we shared in a WordCloud exercise each week in Advent. We’ll do that again this year. We’ll acknowledge our longings, and we’ll name the signs of hope, peace, joy and love that we see in the world as a way of entering more deeply into the present in this Advent season.
These questions will guide us in that:
What hope (peace, joy, love) am I longing for?
What signs of hope (peace, joy, love) do I see now?
We’ll all contribute to the WordCloud on Sunday mornings, or you can add to it in the newsletter.
Wishing you all a blessed Advent season,