December 11, 2009
Since I began to follow Jesus, I have always had a difficult-to-describe relationship with Advent. In an odd disconnect from my own experience of God as a teenager, I can remember viewing Advent as a distraction from the death of Jesus. Part of this is because of my experience with American civil religion, where most folks celebrate the birth of Jesus by buying stuff they don’t need and whining about retailers that don’t say “Merry Christmas.”1
I’ve always found it easy to reject that civil religion, but didn’t really embrace that there was an alternative so I tended to throw out the whole of Advent. In recent years, though, this has changed a great deal for me. I have come to have a deep, life-altering appreciation for what the Incarnation itself means – for God to engage us to such a radical extent.
This new appreciation has come about through any number of experiences. They started with an emerging house church I was a part of during 2006, and have continued in various Emergent communities in Atlanta in the last couple of years. They have continued with various blog posts on a variety of thoughts, and have reached into so many areas of life for me – design, church, activism, politics, spirituality, and theology. It’s a fascinating thing.
This year, I have tried to focus on these things in various ways, from a local emphasis on deliverance from human sex trafficking, to buying things that matter, seeking ways to create things that matter, while trying to contemplate again what it means for God to put aside otherness from us to “scream alongside us.”
All of this, as you can probably tell, swirls around in my mind and each thing reaches into other things. But they all finally rest upon the concept of waiting. Waiting for God to come. We live in a time in which God has come to us, but at the same time we wait for God to come to us.
Even in my own life, I know that God has come to me. And yet still, I wait for God to come. I wait to join God in his dreams for the world, in the places that seem abandoned, and in my own dryness. This year, I have been shaken by exhortations to live epic stories, to find suffering in the world and do something about it, and to varying degrees I wait for these things. I’m seeking to embrace this waiting during this Advent, and be shaped by it.
- Ironically, those who are angry about this are almost never angry about the consumerism that we buy into when we celebrate Christmas, and I have never seen them angry about the slave labor that makes the products sold by these retailers. [↩]