I don’t know if there is a “right way” Advent is supposed to “feel” but this year seems to be off kilter in some ways. Is it just me or is this a collective or shared impression? It seems the events of this season are weighing down the promise of “glad tidings” and “peace on earth.” How do we enter the innocence God invites us to embrace in a world dealing with, as I just heard it called, this “evolving pandemic,” heartbreaking senseless violence, loss of loved ones, December tornadoes and one anxiety evoking headline after another?
I am trying to center my thoughts in the images I have reflected on for many Advents. Waiting. Expectation. Peace. Joy. Love. Hope.
But the theme that personally resonates with me this year is the Advent theme of “Longing.” Fr. Ronald Rohlheiser wrote, “Advent is about getting in touch with our longings.” I am longing for ease for those suffering illness, processing violent trauma, and grieving loss.
I am longing for a world where peace reigns and justice is the norm. I am longing for Christmas to bring Emmanuel, which means, God with us. I am longing for the peace that comes from trusting God is with us. Advent is about getting in touch with our longings and letting our yearnings hope in new ways.
I am holding onto Fr. Tony’s words reflecting on the Christmas parade tragedy. He said, the only effective response to evil is to live its opposite, which is goodness, love and maybe holding faith in a better world. If we don’t do this, evil wins.
The Savior came to us as a vulnerable baby saving us from evil and promising deliverance, even from the finality of death. Jesus, born of a virgin, with only a donkey to transport them and Joseph to protect them and no one offering them shelter. Seems like a crazy plan, from our almighty God, for saving us. But a God who could work out salvation with such a plan maybe can take our deepest longings for meaning to come out of chaos, loss and grief and make whole our broken world. I long for that and will allow my heart to hope in that this Advent.
As I pondered all of this, I remembered a quote from the concentration camp survivor Corrie Ten Boom. She said, “If you look at the world you will be distressed. If you look within you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”
Good advice for Advent longing. May the longings of your heart rest in Emmanuel.