Advent What?

So what is this Advent deal all about? Are you currently observing it? Let me just suggest you open up this link and listen to an Advent song while reading this post.

I’m fascinated with the idea of Advent because I have never actually celebrated it,
and this year I am taking time to feel everything that this time has to give. It’s almost a misnomer to say “celebrate” Advent because what I have found thus far is a sad season… one of longing and expectation for the day that is Christ’s birth. It’s a season that does not leave room for cheery Christmas carols or green- red sugar cookies. I’m finding that it’s requiring me to slow down, to stop… stop consuming, stop talking, stop worrying, stop making idols, stop running around… a time to stop.

Perhaps we have abandoned the idea of longing in our fast-paced, minute-to-win-it culture. Everything’s got to happen now. Pronto!… as it should have been completed ten minutes ago. We don’t long for things nearly as much because, well, we can have them right now. We speed up relationships. We speed up acquiring possessions. We speed up worship services. We speed up conversations. I think we’ve forgotten what it means to yearn… to long…. to ache for something deep within. Something that is surely coming but is not here yet.

It’s odd to have to actually plan to slow down, to set a date on the calendar in which you block out time to stop. To turn off the gizmos and gadgets. To be quiet. To just be. Without this time, we, as creatures of busyness, become unsettled. We numb ourselves and buy special mattresses to help us sleep and yet what we need is space to meditate, to reflect, to pray… a contemplative time which is required for us to arrive at thoughts that will be necessary for our future.

If no other time of the year, Advent is a time for this. To slap the busyness and commercialization of Christmas in the face. To reflect and remember who I am… what is my ethos? What is my purpose here on earth? What have I done with this year?

A time to long for what we don’t yet have. To expect. To be caught in the parenthesis of the past and what is surely to come.

The day is coming when we will celebrate, but it is not this day.

This day we long for what is to come. And when it comes, we know it will come with intentionality and significance.

At Communion this past Sunday, before serving the bread and wine, my pastors prayed that this bread would sustain us through this time of longing and stillness.
I pray that you too would be sustained during this time of longing. That you would be sustained with the bread of contemplation and reflection. And if this is a sad time for you, let it be. Embrace the pain and make it a part of you. For we must do this… our spirits are crying out us to slow down and find meaning.

We will celebrate soon. But for now, we long.



How are you observing Advent? I would love to hear ideas!

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Hurt

So I was listening to one of Johnny Cash’s last songs this week. I have a great amount of respect for Cash though I’m not necessarily a country music connoisseur. The song is entitled “Hurt” and here are the lyrics to the chorus.

“What have I become,
My sweetest friend,
Everyone I know,
Goes away in the end,

And you could have it all,
My empire of dirt,
I will let you down,
I will make you hurt.”

I have never listened to the song before (if you haven’t I’d recommend it with all due haste…listen to it while you are reading this) and naturally, I loved it. It seemed so heartfelt and raw. Raw was something I had been feeling… in the advent of my maternal grandfather’s sudden brain aneurysm and death in January. After the funeral, I had to immediately jump back into the whirlwind of all things graduate school and really didn’t have much time to process the “hurt” I felt… so upon hearing Cash’s song, it sank in. At the same time, I had learned of a friend who was going through a very difficult time and was bearing consequences that were not of her doing. I hurt for her… I hurt for me.

I began reflecting on relationships… people that I know now… that I have known… that I will know. It’s powerful stuff. The fact of the matter is that we will lose each other eventually. Think about people you’ve known and loved… people who are no longer a part of your life for one reason or another. That hurts. Even aches. To have loved and lost that which you loved. For me, it drives home the fact that life comes in seasons… people come into our lives for a season to teach us, to love us, to walk beside us, to change us… but part of living is that we eventually have to give them up… they “go away in the end”… eventually…they’ll make us hurt, like Johnny so eloquently conveys. And then what do you do?

You keep going. You keep loving. You let yourself be changed. They knew you, they loved you and hurt you, they are in your memory, they are in your soul. But you are in a new season now… you can’t become immobilized because of the pain of the past. You can’t shut down. You keep going, keeping your heart open to meet and love new people. This is the blessing of life… a gift of God. So as hard as it can be, you have to be grateful to have known that person and grateful for the memory that you carry.

Then, with all grace and strength… you rise.

Into 2010…

Wow…its been a while since I’ve written… and I have 10 other things that I should be doing. When does life ever slow down? I’m resolved to say that it probably won’t anytime soon, but I am, at the same time, probably addicted to the busyness. I wonder if I would know what to do with myself if given a week of nothingness (I realize this isn’t a word, but that’s okay with me).

Enough complaining…I just thought I would pen what I was thinking tonight. Sometimes, at random times, I am lonely….I am surrounded by people all day, but sometimes don’t get the chance to really connect with anyone because of busyness. I love all people and often try to find an avenue to connect with anybody I meet, but there are just some people that you really connect with… its just like something clicks when you first meet. These people turn into your best friends or maybe more, in some cases. Or maybe you don’t get a chance to know each other, but you know that you’d be best friends if you were given the opportunity. Anyway… I may be crazy… but today I didn’t really get a chance to see any of those people and maybe that’s why I’m a bit lonely.

And my second thought and perhaps one of more significance…is really just me writing down that I want to fix my eyes on Christ. There is so much in my life that is unsteady, not constant, faltering… I often lack direction and have to beg Christ to be my Vision. I sometimes feel like I should have more things in order…I should have a wedding ring on my finger, I should have a better direction for my future career, I should have the courage to tell someone of my love for them, I should have my summer planned out, I should have, I should have, I should have. I think I begin feeling this way when I take my vision away from Christ.

It’s easy to start looking around and seeing all the things the world gives and wanting them.. security, a certain relationship, a doctoral degree, pride, prestige. I want to look up to Christ. There’s a verse that literally brings me to tears every time I read it or even think about it. It is Jesus speaking in the Gospel according to John. He said… “I have come that they may have LIFE and have it to the full.” The word life there is a Greek word, but the Hebrew equivalent is used in the book of Ezekiel, where the Ezekiel stands in a valley of dry bones. The LORD asks him: “Can this dry bones come alive?” The word for “life and alive” is congruent. YES. Christ IS the life. I will look at Christ to be my Vision.