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Groan {first week of advent}

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O that you would tear open the heavens and come down… {Isaiah}

Whenever Advent becomes the parlance of The Economy or The Industry (especially the Christian industry), we can be certain the Advent known by frightened shepherds and half-crazed prophets, the Advent familiar to a gutsy virgin and a threadbare people, has grown (to some degree) estranged to us. Advent’s force does not arrive via strategically orchestrated initiatives, certainly not from a writer’s well-timed Advent series. The very best we can do is hold tight and try not to mangle the whole affair while we wait for the mystery to happen.

Advent’s force does not answer cue, bidden by the craft of preacher, activist or entrepreneur. Advent first pierces the cold air as a desperate groan from those living at the jagged edges, from those who taste sorrow’s bitterness, those accustomed to the crush of disappointment, of fear. Advent comes first for those who have made a wreck of things, those who carry a legitimate complaint, for those whose existence teeters on the brink. If you do not know any pain, if you have no yearning for what is not yet true, if you have no pang of grief for your sorrow or the sorrow of another…if there is no raw, raspy voice somewhere in the hollows of your soul that every now and again whispers into the ravaging night, God, please…Please tear the heavens and come down… then some of what Advent offers will always stand remote for you.

And this is okay; it simply means you’re not yet ready. But tuck this in your pocket because someday… someday you will be.

Israel cried out for Yahweh to rend the skies, to move, to act — precisely because God was not acting. For generations, God had gone silent, and Israel, fearful that their history and their future might finally be extinguished, begged God to do what God had done for the ancients. On Sinai, the mountain trembled under the weight of the Voice, and on Sinai, Israel (besieged by the thunder and the darkness and the deluge) trembled as well. On Sinai, the people’s terror was so great that they wanted nothing to do with this God who cracks the sky, and they pleaded for Moses to deal with God and leave them be. But now the fear of ruin loomed larger than the fear of thunder. Now Israel stood desperate for God to act, to speak, to do anything that might assure them they were not abandoned.

And God would act. The Heavens would rip asunder so Love could descend. But now is not the time for that story, not yet. This is the moment for the groan, for the question of whether we will survive, the moment to wonder if there will be anything left of us at all.

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Each Monday during Advent, John Blase, Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk and I will reflect on the same Advent text from the week’s lectionary. This week, it’s Isaiah 64:1-9.

18 thoughts on “Groan {first week of advent}

  1. Advent is for “those who carry a legitimate complaint.” Yes. Beautiful, wise words. Thank you.

    1. you’re welcome, Christie

  2. There is so much here that resonates with me, with where I’m at, with the affirmation that maybe sidling out to the edges, waiting there, might also bring hope and light. This is so wise.

    1. it just might, Katie. just might.

      1. I referenced this in my blog this week for what it’s worth.

        1. It’s worth a lot, Katie. Thank you.

  3. I love that you capture, Winn, the opposing reactions – the fear and wanting nothing to do with Sinai and, later, the desperation of waiting for God to show up. I have known both, sometimes know both at the same time. It appears that the same act, the same God, can be good news or bad depending on our position and willingness to be shaken to the core.

    1. shaken…good word for these days

  4. Your words tug me this morning into a quieter and more awe-filled reality. Thank you Winn.

    1. you’re welcome, Mary. Thanks for reading.

  5. Groan….yes. This is beautiful and truth that hits home with me. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. I’m glad whenever thing hit home. Thanks for reading.

  6. […] a blog post by Winn Collier that speaks to this dark season and gave me the courage to post this: http://winncollier.com/groan-first-week-of-advent/. And here is another one by Beth Harrison […]

  7. oh, yeah – those longing for a breakthrough, a breakout. Advent exactly. Thanks, Winn.

    1. Exactly.

  8. […] A rescue the president, justice system, nor any civil rights leader can provide. Writer and Pastor Winn Collier’s words on Advent ring so […]

  9. “Advent first pierces the cold air as a desperate groan from those living at the jagged edges, from those who taste sorrow’s bitterness, those accustomed to the crush of disappointment, of fear. Advent comes first for those who have made a wreck of things, those who carry a legitimate complaint, for those whose existence teeters on the brink.” Certainly we are all reeling from the dark events of the last few months here in Charlottesville, but the reality is that a certain crushing reality weighs on some members of our community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They might become mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts, homeless, and/or victims of even more violence, and then society penalizes them even more. So, in our own groaning, we get a taste of what is an everyday reality for some people. Have compassion, and treat all with care and respect. In that way, we can help channel a little advent, a little Kingdom, into the world.

    1. That’s right, Tina. In so many ways. Thank you for being present with many of our neighbors in precisely this place.

words have a way of making friends. drop a few here.