That was some November. It began with one of the most divisive elections of all time that, in the words of New York Times Op-Ed columnist, David Brooks, acted “like a flash flood that sweeps away the topsoil and both reveals and widens the chasms, crevices and cracks below.” This was followed by a couple week lull that led up to the Thanksgiving/Black Friday holidays. These events probably varied from person to person. Some dreaded Thanksgiving because they had to face potentially uncomfortable political conversations with family members. Some dreaded Thanksgiving because it felt like putting salt in the wound of their loneliness. Thanksgiving also coincides with Black Friday shopping, which seems to begin earlier and earlier every year. The irony that others have pointed out about Black Friday is that the day after we express our thanks for all that we have, we then scramble frantically to buy things that we “need.” At the end of November many of us are in need of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Fortunately these are some of the various themes that are expressed and celebrated in the season of Advent that always begins four Sundays before Christmas. We need to celebrate and hold up each of these themes because when we do it gives a diagnosis of our life that can keep us from causing unnecessary harm to ourselves and others.
A mom was lamenting the developing sibling relationship among her three children. It seemed like her children were always fighting with one another, and she was sad at the current state of their friendship and concerned about them not having any real relationship in the future. One day she came across some information that opened her eyes to see the real problem; she realized that her kids weren’t getting enough sleep. With this new information, she changed how and when they did bedtimes and slowly she began to notice that her children were being kind and fun with each other. Obviously this doesn’t happen every day, nor can she make sure that they are always getting enough sleep, but it changed everything to know the root of the dysfunction.
When we celebrate Advent we hold up these themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love primarily to realize that these are deep longings that we all have inside of us. If we don’t recognize and explore these longings we can become obsessed with fixing and changing the wrong things. We can think that our lack of joy can be resolved by a change of pace, a new outfit, a new routine, or simply doing better. We’ve all been down that path and it's exhausting.
In Advent we celebrate that God has brought Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love to the world in Jesus Christ. The term Advent comes from Latin, which simply means “arriving,” and so we celebrate the arrival of Jesus. Both his initial arrival over 2000 years ago as a child born in Bethlehem and his second arrival that we all wait for. To celebrate this great season we often journey with the people of Israel who were awaiting the arrival of the Messiah. We do this so that we can have these longings awakened and to realize that much of our angst and frustration in the world comes from our desire for Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. And these things have come and will come again in Jesus Christ.
The beauty of celebrating the original and second Advent of Jesus Christ is that in doing so we are often made aware of the other Advent. That God in Jesus Christ often bursts into our life in unexpected ways to bring the reality of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love beyond what we could have expected. Join us this season of Advent as we celebrate the Advent of old and look forward to the Advent to come and wait for the Advent of the present presence of the living God in Jesus Christ by the power of His Spirit.