We’re experts at taking the very best things and grinding them into the ground, hacking at them until we wear away all the life and the wonder. It’s no different with Advent.
Advent’s hope and unease arrive like a bolt of lighting. God catches us off guard. Advent disorients us, sends us reeling. Reading the thundering, weeping prophets (the readings assigned during the first weeks of Advent), every cliché melts. Here, we encounter God aflame. Our future relies entirely on the mercy of God’s sturdy promise — that God will dismantle evil, overwhelm sorrows, and once again speak light into the stifling darkness. Our hope rests in the furious love of God. But this encounter makes us tremble. We’re deluding ourselves if we think we can package or control the fury.
So how then does Advent sometimes feel like yet another intrusion of religious industry? The products. The quotes. And yes, the blog posts too.
Then the wrangling that kicks up every year, all the finger wagging around how we’re supposed to properly observe these Advent days. I have my opinions with these things, but Advent isn’t primarily a celebration to enjoy or a Christian season to “get right.” Advent is the cataclysmic story of God’s disruptive, creative action in human history. Advent renews our heavy souls by insisting that God does in fact arrive in the midst of our pain and worry, right in the middle of our despair and dismay.
In Advent, light pierces the darkness. Pierce — this is not a gentle word. The Light disrupts and scatters, and then the Light renews and heals. In Advent, God confronts us. God makes us promises. In Advent, we tremble and laugh. We lament, and we are overcome by wonder. Advent lifts our heart and rekindles hope’s fire. Advent offers more than we know to ask. Advent is gentle as a child, and Advent blazes like the sun.
Thank goodness, Advent is not what we make of it. I need something more than what I can muster. Advent pierces. Advent pierces the dark.