Advent: the time Christians set aside for spiritual preparation for the birth of Christ. It's a strange time. It's a time of busy-ness and movement. It's also a time of waiting.
We wait for the hope delivered at Christmas, we exercise patience, we are expectant as we count the days to Christmas Day, and we hope.
For many, waiting conjures up images of a docile, passive condition, twiddling our thumbs and fidgeting while we wait for something to happen.
But Advent calls us to task.
Amidst dressed-up storefronts and winter wonderlands, we find ourselves living in a reality filled with poverty, war, destruction, racism. Though this season leading up to Christmas is characterized by waiting expectantly for the hope that arrives in the form of a baby born in a manger — the Prince of Peace — we instead are flooded with the sense that the world is upside down, far away from peace.
Families are living in fear of deportation. Refugees in the thousands are risking their lives for the chance at a better life. Young black men are unsure if a routine traffic stop will end their life.
How do we practice Advent in such a time as this? How can we wait patiently when there is so much urgency?
How do we see past the tinsel, the shiny wrapping, the Christmas songs that have been playing since October and the Black Friday specials that were announced well before Thanksgiving, to see where Light is already breaking through?
Advent is just as much a season of active waiting as it is a season of surprise. As people of faith, we live in this interesting already-but-not-yet space. Already, because we know Christ has come, and not yet, because we are still awaiting the arrival of the Kingdom of God, when peace and justice — Shalom — will reign. And yet we sometimes live as people who have forgotten about this gift of hope that came to us in the form of a baby, born to immigrants in a lowly stable.
As we engage this season of Advent, where is God showing up? It may be where you least expect it: in the unhoused person you pass by every morning asking for help, in a refugee resettled in your neighborhood, in the angry coworker, in the family member with whom you've disagreed this entire election season, in the headlines you read weekly about violence against our brothers and sisters who are labeled as 'other.'
As you sit in this tension of a world shrouded in darkness, waiting for the light to come, stay woke. Tune your senses to the ways God is already at work. Listen with your entire being to where God's spirit is nudging you. Channel the Jesus who overturned tables and who fought the establishment on behalf of the marginalized. Allow yourself to experience both joy and despair for what you see and hear and feel around you.
Above all, don't be afraid to look for and engage in the ways God is showing up.