The Longest Advent

On Sunday, November 28, the Church turns the calendar page and begins a new liturgical year. And in keeping with our tradition, that new year begins with the season of Advent…four weeks of waiting, preparing, and anticipation that find their conclusion at the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus as God’s incarnate Word.

I remember as a kid that this waiting time seemed terribly long. Christmas, with its gifts and family celebrations and other traditions was such a big deal. The days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve would drag by. We read our devotions and lit our candles every night, but the time never seemed to move fast enough for us. Those of us of a certain age found that the Chipmunks expressed it perfectly: “We can hardly stand the wait. Please, Christmas, don’t be late.” (Copy and paste this in your browser if you want to hear that oldie but goodie again.)

But, honestly, I’m not sure how well I can do with waiting this year. And maybe you find yourself in a similar place. After all, it feels like we’ve been waiting for almost two years…stuck in Advent since March 2020. Shut down. Locked out. Isolated from one another. The songs we want to sing stuck in our throats. The faces we long to behold half-hidden behind masks. And still the pandemic lingers.

It’s made us all a bit cranky…and some of us crankier than others. Please know: The decisions that our Congregation Councils have made over the past 20 months have not been easy. Together, we’ve done our best to lean on the science in an effort to keep folks safe and still together. The guidelines we’ve adopted are built on data and recommendations from leading medical schools (Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford), the CDC and NIH, and the Ecumenical Consultation on Worship, Fellowship, and the Sacraments. These guidelines are not arbitrary, nor were they concocted on a whim. The leadership of this congregation has been careful and deliberate. And I am thankful for their willingness to serve so faithfully in difficult times.

But still we wait. And we want the waiting to be over. Enough of this wretched Advent already. I get it.

I’m wondering. Can we learn to wait in healthier ways? Can we use this November and the upcoming Advent season itself as an opportunity to replace our anger and our frustration with a deeper understanding of the value of not immediately getting what we want? Covid will pass by at some point. We will gather and sing and rejoice together again. But how marvelous would it be if we were able to spend the time until then constructing better ways for us to faithfully cope with our disappointments and our anticipation?

Dear friends in Christ: hang in there. Know that God abides with us…just as God tended Israel for 40 years in the wilderness and Judah for 70 years in Babylon. We are being tested now, but the day of our deliverance is surely coming. Let’s work to arrive together at that glorious morning with joy and thanksgiving. †


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