Advent is my favorite season of the liturgical year. I have always identified most with its themes of darkness and waiting. As a night owl, I have always found the darkness and solitude of the middle-of-the-night hours to be the most creative, inspiring, and restorative. As a destination-oriented person, I have struggled to learn to live out and lean into seasons of waiting in my life. Advent so deeply resonates with me precisely because the waiting has a purpose and an end-point. It is a season of joyful expectation of the new thing that is about to come into being. It is a season of hope.
When I created my Advent wreath several years ago, I chose to use the color blue instead of purple because of its association with enlivening hope. Advent teaches us what it is to have faith that what is promised to come will in fact come:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1
Seasons of waiting are inevitable and indeed vital in our lives, which Advent reminds us of again and again, yet we hope in that as-yet-unseen realization of purpose that we have been promised. In seasons of waiting, we hope for change. We hope for renewal. We hope for fruition. We hope for enough hope to sustain us all the way through the curve.
I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases this verse:
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.
Our faith–our hope in what we have not yet seen but joyfully anticipate–is the firm foundation that we build upon. It is the rich soil of love that our roots grow down deeply into.
That is why, I think, the liturgical year opens with this particular season. We begin every year not with the celebration of the birth of the Emmanuel but with the waiting with hope in joyful expectation that soon, so very soon, our God-[will be]-with-us just as we have been promised! We begin every year with this reminder, this invitation to return again to the beginning, the beginning of our story, the beginning of the story of God. Just as St. Benedict encourages us still with his centuries-old wisdom, we are always being invited to begin again.
As we enter this last week of Advent, amidst all the busy last-minute shopping and preparations for gathering together in the coming celebration, we are continually reminded that we are, after all, just beginning. We are reminded to slow down, to pause and reflect, to lean into these last days and hours of darkness and solitude with hopeful, joyful anticipation. We are invited to begin opening up the deep places in ourselves, creating space in preparation for what is coming.
Because we know what is coming.
And when it comes, our hearts will have been made ready to receive yet again and still ever more deeply this always-accessible gift of the presence of God, intimately involved and engaged in our lives and within our very selves.
Personally, I can hardly wait! How about you?