Advent Essay

Guest post from my friend, the Reverend Carol Cooper. Enjoy as we continue to wait!

In week one of Advent you were introduced to Anna. While Anna’s life started out rather uneventful, if we are honest, Anna experienced many emotions in her years. Her life started out well–she had a wonderful family line (detailed out in week one) and she was married and beginning her life with her husband. 

Then, as said in week one, tragedy struck and her husband of only 7 years passed away. We know she never remarried and the story speaks of no children. Anna had to have experienced pain and according to custom, she would have been considered an outsider being a widower. But this did not deter her from her calling. She is called a prophetess, one who listens to God and speaks what God has spoken to her. 

But even being a prophetess, even one who continued to live into her calling, she would have felt loss, she would have felt pain, she would have had all.the.feels. During this season of Advent, let me encourage you to feel the feels, to allow your emotions to be real, to not ignore the grief and pain that may exist. 

As the Christmas season springs up all around us, almost robbing us of the Advent season, many of us aren’t feeling the happy. Many of us are struggling. Many of us have lost a loved one over the past year. All of us have lost “normal” and “routine” and, and, and…And Advent allows us to admit this reality, to admit we are struggling. Anna’s life allows us to lean in and say, we are feeling the feelings. 

In an Advent Sermon, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says:

Those who learn to wait are uneasy about their way of life, but yet have seen a

vision of greatness in the world of the future and are patiently expecting its fulfillment. The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come. For these, it is enough to wait in humble fear until the Holy One himself comes down to us, God in the child in the manger. God comes. The Lord Jesus comes. Christmas comes. Christians rejoice! (December 2, 1928)   

When we think about Anna’s life, we may realize that there had to be an uneasiness about her life… and as week one said, describing the decades she waited, we begin to wonder–who waited with her? Did people get tired of her waiting? Grief and waiting have no time table. They are messy. We’ve heard of the stages of grief before, but to think that the stages are linear puts grief on a timeline, and grief is anything but linear. Oftentimes when we think we have moved on, something happens and grief snatches us back to a place and a time. Years may have passed, and still we remember. The day comes when we didn’t think of–you can fill in a name or an event–and when we realize it, grief and guilt take over. Advent is our season–the season where we can wait, the season where we can grieve. We long for the coming of the Christ child. We long for hope. We long for peace. 

In his new book, Honest Advent, author and artist Scott Erickson writes:

Our invitation to Advent starts here, now–and thank God, because here now feels really complicated. And hard. And sad at times. With a lot of loss. Right? It hasn’t been that long since we all lost a normal way of life. Some of us are still recovering what we lost.

But what gives me hope in this Advent season is the reminder that everything can be taken away except that hidden part of me. Whether I lose my savings, my house, my title, or my very livelihood, what is un-takeable is the part of me that Jesus illuminates. The deeper self that was woven into this world but is anchored in a much larger world. In the git of my life is a doorway to a much larger reality. And Jesus is the Light that shows me the way. (27)

Friends, in this Advent season, I pray that the hidden part of you, the part Jesus illuminates, will bring you hope, will bring you healing, will bring you peace. Jesus, the Light of the World, is coming. Emmanuel, God with us.