“That’s the sacred intent of life, of God – to move us continuously toward growth, toward recovering all that is lost and orphaned within us and restoring the divine image imprinted on our soul. And rarely do significant shifts come without a sense of our being lost in dark woods..” – Sue Monk Kidd
I have a tiny tree this year. Wreaths and candles in the windows. I even have Christmas decorations in the bathroom. It’s all set.
An Advent candle wreath was a new addition last Christmas, the year I decided that instead of wagging an angry finger at decades of waiting, I would embrace this season. I joined thousands of others in lighting the candles to commemorate eons of longing for what was most wanted.
Advent – waiting with anticipation, “coming” in Latin.
Throw a rock in LifeWay and you’ll hit an Advent devotional – readings for these four weeks leading up to Christmas. Weeks of quiet, stillness, lighting candles, remembering how much the world groaned under the weight of waiting, hoping, longing. Why in the world do we need to embrace that?
Honestly, this practice confounded me. Mostly because Advent is tinged with the hardest and tenderest parts of life – waiting, hoping, longing, silence, stillness. To make peace with pleading prayers and long-dead dreams has never been something I wanted to chase down.
Many of us are starting down years of silence. Many of us have heard whispered dreams and are hoping for something not yet here. A thousand times we’ve given up.
And yet we still believe this isn’t all. But we can’t quite stomach a belief in anything more than what is in front of us. Here we all land in these weeks before Christmas, weeks we have set aside to remember we are all waiting. Nothing is completely finished. Nothing is completely fulfilled. In the face of years of silence, we are scared to hope in anything greater. We’ve become Sara laughing at the absurdity of the promise. Who can blame us?
Soon we will enter into the story of Mary and Joseph who have only ever heard tale of God’s voice but believed him all the same. Of Elizabeth and Zechariah who had all but given up, yet were still at the temple, still faithful in the only way they could barely eek out. And Simeon, who was waiting in Jerusalem and believed this baby who came to his door would save his soul.
But before all of this, there was white silence.
These weeks as we march up to this story of a census, manger, innkeeper, angel choir and mighty baby, let’s honor the waiting. Let us peel back the promise for just a second and remember what it is like to not hear, not see, not know. Let us honor the faith that builds only through heart-sick hope.
I am not an expert in anything, not the smartest, most refined person to know. Most days I feel like the cheese is barely on the cracker. But I have been waiting a long time for a many, many things. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I can point to one area of my life in which I am not waiting. I’ve spent years mourning what I did not have while nearly missing the faith the Lord was building in me – the sturdy kind that won’t break when things like careers, relationships and hearts break. That brand of faith can only come from watching and waiting.
Over the next four weeks, I simply want to tell a few stories to celebrate the pillars of Advent – Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace. I want to pull tender, often hidden parts of life, into the light and pray they will strengthen weak faith and renew abandoned hope.
I hope you will come along. Just one story a week, the first one will post this Wednesday.
I hope we all can hope again.