Yesterday marked the first day of advent for us Christians. The day begins our period of expectant waiting and preperation for the day that celebrates the birth of Jesus. Advent in latin means coming. Through advent, we walk with Mary as she carries Jesus in her womb. Our anticipation is the anticipation that Mary felt in her pregnancy each day until he was born into our world.
One of my favorite Christian artists and writers, Scott Erickson, says this about advent: “God came into the world the same way we do…which is through human vulnerability. In fact because of the helpless nature of being a newborn, it’s as if the Divine Holy Mystery starts the conversation with humanity by stating ‘I’m going to need you to take care of me for a really long time.’ What does it say about a God that wants to start the conversation that way? What does it say about a relationship that’s willing to be that vulnerable?”
I love the way that he phrases that because he highlights the significance of Jesus coming here as a baby. A vulnerable little baby that has to be nursed and taken care of. Mary had to stay up nights feeding him, comforting him, and raising him. That’s our God. And advent teaches us so many things about the nature of our God, but one that strikes me deeply is the way that it teaches us to honor women’s bodies and their gift to carry and bring forth life. Mary had a great task- to bring forth Jesus through the raw, emotional, painful process of giving birth.
Advent’s time of waiting can be parallelled to our current time of waiting during this pandemic. We have all felt strained and desparate for this pandemic to end so that we can see our families, so that we can hang out with our friends, so that we can celebrate holidays and weddings and birthdays again, and so that we can get back to doing what we were doing before to accomplish our goals. I really want this pandemic to end because I’m in a long distance relationship and I want it to be easier for us to travel to see each other without worrying about getting the virus or spreading the virus. This season of waiting for me has been the waiting for the virus to be contained and the waiting to be able to see my boyfriend again. It’s been nearly ten months without him and it’s been really difficult. For all of us, it’s been a waiting game without a countdown, and that has made it the hardest of all.
Advent teaches us to savor the waiting. To taste it and wrestle with it and acknowledge it. Pastor Bryan Halferty at Anchor Church in Tacoma, Washington taught on the first day of advent yesterday and explained that there is value in the waiting. God wants us to pause and receive his teachings while we are in transition, waiting for the next thing. As humans, we tend to distract ourselves and consume our time with monetary things so that the waiting speeds up and the time goes quicker. I’m definitely guilty of this. If I only keep myself busy enough, keep my schedule full enough, then the time will go by faster and the waiting will be less painful, less noticeable.
I challenge you, in this period of waiting, to sit in it and to reflect. Whether you are waiting for the pandemic to end, waiting to see a loved one, waiting for your big wedding day, or waiting for the traffic light to turn green-let yourself focus on the present. Take a deep breath, it will be uncomfortable and you’ll want to pick up the first thing close to you to distract yourself. But there is growth within uncomfortability. And that growth is paramount to our flourishing as human beings and as children of God. Reflect on how you have handled the waiting. Reflect on how you’ve been treating yourself and treating those around you. Reflect on how you have felt-how you’ve really felt recently. Tune in to your emotions. Tune in to what your body is asking of you. Tune in to what your mind is asking of you. What do you need in this moment? What is God trying to bring to your attention?
Distractions aren’t always bad. Some distractions are okay and are necessary to get through specific moments in life with your mental health still in tact. There are definitely healthy and unhealthy distractions, and I’ve participated in both. Sometimes I feel like I want to binge a TV show to distract myself or eat junk food. Sometimes I feel like I want to go on a run to distract myself or read a book or write. Whatever it is, take it in and be aware of what it is contributing to your life. Do everything in small increments and don’t forget to make time to sit and be present. It’s easy for us to distract as we wait for whatever the future holds for us that we believe is going to be better than what we are currently facing. The hard part is to say, “you know what, the present is important too. And I’m going to participate fully in this moment.” That is the hard, life altering stuff right there.
So in this season, I encourage you to take a breath, soak in the moment, and let yourself just be full here, right now.