Somehow, Advent has already arrived. I’ve always loved this season, with its themes of hopeful waiting and preparation. While I can appreciate the lead up to Christmas and the celebration of Jesus' birth long ago, what really captivates me is the way that Advent invites us to lean into the mystery and uncertainty of how God’s promises will yet be fulfilled. It calls us to be present in this in-between time where we have glimpsed God’s desires for us, but they are not yet fully realized. Even if this is a hopeful place, it is an uncomfortable one too, with all its unknowns and transitions.
There have been years where I’ve engaged with the idea of the already/not yet of God’s kingdom in general, sometimes abstract ways, but it seems a concrete reality right now. As communities of faith and spiritual leaders, we have been grappling with intense change and adaptation for close to two years. We find ourselves grieving those who have died, those who have left and the familiar traditions and sense of stability that have been lost along the way. Our nation has been grappling with division, hatred and violence on a number of fronts. We know that God has called us to a future characterized by love, peace, justice and abundant life, but it’s hard to imagine how we will get there. The work before us feels daunting, especially when we are exhausted and discouraged and unsure of what will be asked of us in this unknown future.
Advent reminds us that we are not alone in these places of uncertainty and suffering. After all, we have been created by a God who loves us, who has made a home among us, and who is at work to heal, to transform and to bring abundant life. We are invited to participate in this sacred work, but it remains God’s work. We don’t have to have all the answers or take on every challenge in the church and the world. We just have to open ourselves to the ways that God might put our particular gifts, abilities and passions to good use.
As we journey through Advent this year, I pray that we may trust in God’s vision for us and for our communities, even when our own is still a bit fuzzy. And may we find ways to connect with the people and practices that keep us open and available to God and to our neighbors. That means making space for the rest, renewal and re-creation that will sustain us for the holy work of transformation to which we are called.