Advent Lament: You Don’t Have to Pretend This Advent

by Bo Sanders

In light of global current events, we are launching a series at The Seminary Blog titled Advent Lament for this Christmas season. What is the place of lament in “the most wonderful time of the year”? We are holding these in tension: Joy and sorrow. Hope and despair. Arrival and displacement. Welcome to our Advent Lament.

The world seems to be spinning out of control. I have always resisted older members of my congregation or family who complained about the demise of our culture and the increasing chaos of our modern era.

I dismissed it as a result of an overly romaticisized notion of the past and nostalgic memory filter that acted as the proverbial rose-colored glasses.

On an unrelated note – I didn’t grow up with advent. Advent is a new addition to my Christian practice and liturgical understanding. It has not always been the easiest transition.

As a charismatic-evangelical I am a big fan of concepts like overcoming, victory, glory and celebration. Unfortunately, I had under-cultivated skills in the areas of waiting, rest and the like.

It always felt to me that our observations of ‘good Friday’ and advent were a bit contrived and manufactured. I mean, we already know how this turns out! Light pierces the darkness! Life swallows up death! Christ is born in us anew! To pretend otherwise was to go through the motions in an attempt to contrive feeling sad or concerned and waiting in darkness. It felt like bad pantomime and I did not feel like pretending.

Life has taught me a few lessons since then and for that I am grateful. Our world, and my congregation, is not in danger of feigning concern or having to muster up fear. There is nothing imagined about chaos in our time or the darkness that hangs in the air.

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Photo Credit: Loren Kerns via Flickr

You don’t have to pretend this advent.

The night is real. The concern is tangible. The fear is audible. Something is broken and we know that we don’t have all the answers. When we pray for the Lord to come quickly and save us from our overwhelming and uncertain situation … we are not simply parroting the inherited words of the ancients. We are praying these words as the very cry of our own hearts.

We don’t have to imagine a time of darkness and hope for the light. We don’t have to pretend that we don’t know the answers and act as if we aren’t sure that everything will turn out all right. We don’t have to feign concern or construct a façade of fear and trepidation. We don’t have to pretend this advent.

Watch any news broadcast this week and you will see stories of environmental catastrophe, economic uncertainty, political scandal, war, terror, domestic violence, governmental gridlock and religious vitriol. Then there are the commercial breaks.

I am glad that advent came into my life when it did. To paraphrase an old anecdote – if advent did not exist it would have to be invented.

I am waiting. I am concerned. I am hoping. I am nervous. I am troubled.

No one is pretending this advent.

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