Advent: A Marvelous Season

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Here we are in the midst of this marvelous and mysterious season of Advent.   I once read that Advent is like a “winter landscape, appearing bleak and barren, but pregnant with promise.”

This image of Advent as “pregnant with promise” is echoed by theologian Wendy Wright, who tells us that “pregnancy is at the core of the Christian message.”  During Advent, we find ourselves like an expectant mother: we wait, we long, we yearn, we hope, we dream.  A reading from Isaiah bears witness to this theme:  “The blossoms are brought forth out of the earth’s womb; garden bushes burst into flowers.”  These hopeful images reveal Advent’s pregnant promise.

Yet there is much in our world, and perhaps in our personal lives, that can squelch hope.  This Advent we may yearn for healing, for wholeness, for forgiveness, for justice, for peace.  Furthermore, we may long for these things now, but Advent gently reminds us that all good things come with waiting.  Brewing and baking, germinating and gestating are the long and labored processes of becoming.

I remember an Advent years ago when my father had died only a few months before.  Right after his death, it seemed as though I was sustained by an inner flame that softened my grief and made it bearable.  But when Advent approached, things changed for me.  Advent seemed like a “winter landscape, appearing bleak and barren,” but not “pregnant with promise.”  Grief, like dark, December days, cast its shadow over me, reminding me that Advent is not only a pregnant time, but a deeply paschal time as well.

I wonder, how do I hold both the pregnant and paschal qualities of Advent? How do I risk trusting in the slow, gestational work of God when so many are in great need now?  How do I risk hoping for restoration and reconciliation in our world when our own country is so deeply divided?  How do I maintain hope for peace in a world plagued with violence?

Yet despite these difficult questions, Advent always draws me into its beauty, a beauty that is, perhaps, all the more beautiful because of its bittersweet quality.  Each year, the loveliness of Advent, full of both promise and unfulfilled longing, draws me into its quiet fullness, asking me to keep listening, keep hoping, and keep trusting in the love that reveals itself in a profound and poignant way, a love that never lets us go.

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