Advent and Anticipation

I didn't grow up celebrating advent, but after moving to Los Angeles and spending time with folks from different faith traditions than my own, I've learned a lot and even picked up some traditions for our family. However, advent didn't (and still doesn't) really make a lot of sense to me. I'm all for Christmas and love to celebrate the season, but the idea of living in waiting and anticipation for a Savior that came 2,000 years ago seems a little silly.

Funny enough, I helped create and curate this Advent playlist from 2020.

But today I was driving and listening to K-LOVE , which is probably the biggest Christmas radio station in the country, and they were speaking about advent and anticipation. (I feel the need to mention that I don't always love the music on K-LOVE, but they've been playing some really great Christmas stuff lately, so I've kept it on. Also, my kids love it.) I started to think about what it would be like to feel that anticipation; the slow build, the feeling that something is happening in the world and we're all just waiting to see what it is, excitedly piecing together events and ideas like an eschatological puzzle. 

Then I remembered that, if you read the gospel of Luke, you get that bubbling-up feeling. It starts with the birth of John the Baptist and the miraculous events surrounding it, which then carries into the birth of Jesus. Strange things are happening all around: pregnancies that shouldn't be happening, angels appearing, prophets coming out of the woodwork to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. Here is some from Luke 2:

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:17-19)

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah...Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:25-26, 34-35)

That first quote is after the shepherds witnessed a massive host of angels in the sky singing God's praises and letting them know that a Savior had been born. And after the Simeon quote, a prophet came up and spoke about Jesus and his role in the "redemption of Jerusalem." And then of course, most of us know about the wise men traveling to meet Jesus, and everything else surrounding the Christmas narrative (The Star is a great kids film that takes a different spin on these events, if you're looking for something to watch this Christmas with the family.)

I challenge you to read those first few chapters and see if you can catch a glimpse of what they were feeling. Now back to today...I have a pretty active imagination, so it shouldn't be too hard for me to put myself in their place, but like I said, so far I haven't really gotten it. However, I can say that, as I keep up with the news (which I do through this daily email from 1440, which I highly recommend), I can say that I definitely feel like something is growing and blooming worldwide...but in a negative sense! (Sometimes it's easier to be negative, isn't it?)

Here is a free advent resource from Pax, which creates beautiful resources combining art, faith and activism.

Ever since the pandemic, the world has felt a little off, hasn't it? Sickness, social unrest, governments falling apart as leaders are stepping down or convicted of wrongdoing, climate change, recession, war -- it just feels like something is bubbling up and I'm wondering where the boiling point is and what its repercussions will be; and in my mind, it all goes negative.

But as I tried to marry these two ideas together today, I was convicted of my tendency to think the worst of the world, and instead try living in anticipation of something good, just like they did 2,000 years ago with the birth of the Savior. Maybe what's coming is amazing. Maybe it's God's next big step in his redemptive work in the world. I have to challenge my thinking that the boiling point has to be a terrible, event that destroys the world and everyone in it. After all, we use boiling water to make mac and cheese, and that's one of the best things ever invented! 

That's a silly point, but the facts are there: I should be living in hope and anticipation of God's redemptive work in the world rather than expecting it all to come to an explosive and terrifying end any day now. Moreover, I should be looking for my role in that redemptive work, as we all have a mission, which I've found seems just a little bit easier to recognize when it's Christmas. And maybe celebrating advent as though Jesus was coming for the first time will make that mentality come about easier and in more powerful and tangible ways.