First Monday of Advent – What Are We Waiting For this Advent?

Advent has begun, and we have lit the first candle on our Advent wreath. As we move into this first week there are a number of thoughts I want to share as we ponder the question What Are We Waiting For This Advent Season? For those that have not yet started their Advent scripture readings you can check out various Advent reading options here.  Then spend some time meditating on the reflections below.

First listen to this beautiful reflection on Advent by Mathew Woodley condensed from the weekly meditations in the Mosaic Bible.

Our culture often fosters a complacent, blase, smug approach to Christianity.  In the words of C.S. Lewis, We are far too easily pleased, We’re happy to numb and freeze our restless ache for a better world.

Advent is the season of the church year that ignites that longing in our herats.  Before we rush into Happy Holidays, we pause and let longing rise up within us.  Throughout Advent we catch glimpses of a better world.

And as we catch glimpses of this Messiah-healed world, we long for its coming now.  All of the best Advent hymns capture this spirit of groaning and longing for messiah’s better world.  When we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,with its dark, unresolved melody, it cracks our hearts open with longing’s wounds.  And yet, we know Messiah has come, even as we wait for him to come again.  Advent is a deliciously painful mix of joy and anguish.

This Advent-like longing is at the heart of Christian spirituality…. C.S. Lewis claimed that in this life the Advent-like stab of longing serves as a spiritual homing device, placed deep in our heart by God to lead us back to him….

Advent trains us to  ache again.  Of all the seasons of the church year, Advent is the time to acknowledge, feel and even embrace the joyful anguish of longing for Messiah’s birth and the world’s rebirth.  So we sing our aching songs while we light candles and festoon the church wit h greenery.  This is Advent longing, and we couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Second here is the posts that I have received for the series What are we Waiting for this Advent Season? It comes from Lynne M. Baab the author of several books, including Reaching Out in a Networked WorldSabbath Keeping, and Fasting. She teaches pastoral theology at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

In a poem called “Reflection,” Irish/English poet Evangeline Paterson describes life after death using the metaphor of a party. The party is happening “somewhere else,” and the light and music escape “in snatches/to make the pulse beat.” Those glimpses of energy and joy at the party come to us briefly, and they are muted and faint because they come from so far away.

With my natural melancholic outlook on life, I’m all too aware of the brokenness of the world around me and the brokenness that dwells inside me. I have moments of utter joy when God’s goodness explodes into my heart. I have moments when I feel the peace that passes all understanding. I have moments when I feel deep gratitude for God’s grace and care, and prayers of thankfulness come naturally. Frankly, I don’t know if I could live without those moments.

But they are only moments. Very rarely does that deep joy, peace or gratitude last for an hour, and even more rarely for a whole day or week. All I get is glimpses, snatches of music and energy coming from the party that is happening somewhere else. I’m waiting for the time when I arrive at that party, when all tears will be wiped away, and God’s presence will be a light that shines so brightly it can’t be missed (Rev. 21:4, 23). I’m waiting for the day when I can know God fully as I am fully known (I Cor. 13:12).

Advent has always been a time of remembering that we wait for the fulfillment of what we have already experienced in snatches. I’ve always enjoyed pondering the notion that that the Holy Spirit is a deposit (or down payment, seal, or pledge) on the inheritance we will receive in Christ (Eph. 1:13, 14). It is the Holy Spirit who makes possible those glimpses of the party, those snatches of light and music. I’m so deeply grateful for the Spirit, this gift that God has given us.

One of my challenges as a naturally melancholy person is to do all I can to enjoy God’s gifts to me in the present. With the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit, I’ve trained myself to practice thankfulness, pay attention to the daily gifts in my life, and see the half-full glass as much as possible. Advent is a wonderful season for me, when waiting as a significant part of the Christian life is affirmed. In Advent, I can settle back into my natural posture of longing for the day when God’s promises will be fulfilled. The day that God’s presence – full of light and music – will surround me, and I won’t experience  it only in snatches.