Updated: Dec 8, 2020
I have a lot of friends who are putting up Christmas decorations extra early this year, just to make things a little brighter in what has been a pretty dim stretch. And I think that’s a pretty reasonable, even hopeful thing to do.
But this year, I’m also really glad for the Church season of Advent—the four weeks, or so, that lead us to Christmas Day. It’s a season that lets us name the dimness, without rushing through it, without distraction, without pretending that everything is fine.
Advent begins, symbolically, with unlit candles. And in order to enter into it, we have to recognize that fact. We have to allow that we’re lacking in light, that we are a people in need, that all is not well with the world. We name that—sometimes stoically, sometimes, through tears, sometimes in rage, we name it. We begin our movement towards Christmas, not with a boisterous “Joy to the World” but in the minor key of “Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
Advent allows us to moan or cry or mumble, open and honestly and as intensely as we need to, along with the prophet Isaiah (chapter 64, verse 1) “O that You would tear open the heavens and come down! Come and do something about this mess, God!” As the season begins, we express our need, our frustration, our inability to make things right on our own.
We tend not to want to do this, but I think it’s important. In Isaiah’s company, we bring all the hard stuff to God—even the stuff that seems too impolite or irreverent for church. And the weird thing that happens when we do that is that we find ourselves in the presence of the God who doesn’t shy away from messy things, but joins us in them. God doesn’t abandon us in the dark valleys, but goes with us, even ahead of us. And when God joins us, God makes a way through.
Advent reminds us that we still need a God who does marvellous things that we don’t expect—impossible births, daring deliverance, paths in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. We need a God who won’t just fix things the way we want, but who will make all things new. And as we light the candles, one by one, week by week, we are reminded that that is the God we get, that’s the God we have: God with us, Emmanuel.
If you want to know more about the Christian Calendar, check out www.thechristiancalendar.com. If you’d like to join our community as we make our way through Advent, follow us on Instagram @foxesandfowl.ca. To join U Hill in worship, email email@example.com for our Zoom link.