It’s Advent, and we’re all waiting in the dark for the flickering, dancing flames to light the way out of this mess. Despite my best intentions, with two weeks of Advent behind us, I’m still just as mired in the stress and craziness of the season as I’ve ever been. I’ve lost the plot and I’m shamefacedly aware of my inability to prepare much of a place either within me, or around me, for Christ to come.
Can I get an amen?
Nonetheless, I’m feeling hopeful.
My hope is not in my ability to prepare well for the Advent season, nor to “really get it right” this Christmas by avoiding all materialistic thinking or acting.
My hope is not that I’m seeing a wholesale eradication of the HPtFtU* (thank you Francis Spufford, for giving us a hilarious and poignant definition of sin) in ourselves or in our enemies. I’m fairly certain that I will continue fostering that particular propensity, at times in frighteningly selfish ways. And that you will, too.
My hope is in something altogether more nourishing.
I’ve read some courageous books** by people who are articulating their intersections with Jesus in ways that feel expansive and hopeful and new and old. I’ve had conversations with people lately in churches, hospitals, coffee shops, bars, and even on neighbor’s doorsteps, dressed in Halloween costumes, as kids dart in and out of view.
And more than ever before, it comes up: a distinct hunger for the God who actually might be repairing broken things. This hunger feels tentative and vulnerable, with subtle undertones of fear. They’re afraid that God might not really be up to mending anything or anyone at all, and there is plenty of evidence that seems to indicate that God might not be.
But there is the smallest glimmer, a whisper of a maybe really, that God could be mending me and mending you and mending our world. The glimmer feels glued on in a somewhat ramshackle way, with bits and pieces falling off, like glitter crumbling off of a child’s gingerbread man. But it is a glimmer.
So I am hopeful.
My hope is reflected in the hunger I see & experience myself. The hunger I’m seeing is for something meaty and real, something that overturns the You-Are-On-Your-Own-So-You-Must-Get-it-Right buffet table at which we’ve all gorged for far too long.
My hope is that Jesus is still standing in between the prostitute and the person who first uses her and then judges her, and he wants to save both of them. My hope is that Jesus is still walking into the teeth of the Empire, announcing something new and overcoming something old. My hope is that Jesus is still weeping over dead brothers and telling stories of lovesick fathers. My hope is that Jesus is still lovingly watching those of us who really are earlobe deep in the HPtFtU, as we sit at his feet and wash them with our tears. My hope is that Jesus is still asking Peter if he loves him after all, that Jesus is still offering his body and his blood, and that we can still take them both in to be renewed, restored, and put back together.
My hope is in the Jesus that keeps being born into our broken world, that keeps attempting to mend that which is broken, and keeps calling our names, inviting us in from the cold.
During Advent, we’re not waiting to finally get our acts together. We’re waiting for God with us to actually be with us, after all.
* HPtFtU: (Human Propensity to F Things Up, — Francis Spufford)
** Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, by Nadia Bolz-Weber; An Altar in the Word: A Geography of Faith, by Barbara Brown Taylor; Unapologetic by Francis Spufford; and What We Talk about When We Talk About God, by Rob Bell