Waiting: Advent 2020

The global experiences of this unusual year have changed the way we express ourselves. So much so that the publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary couldn’t choose just one Word of the Year for 2020. While pandemic and Coronavirus are obvious, look at others that rose to the top: Blursday (the blurry sameness of everyday); doomscrolling (reading online all the opinions/facts); social distancing and flatten the curve and the fun new ways we use remote to describe work and education.

I’ll add another: waiting.

Waiting has become one of the names of this pandemic game. We’re waiting for normal, for justice, for civility, for people to consider and honor the common good, for election results, for a vaccine, for schools and businesses to reopen safely, for empathy, for the time when we can venture forth without anxiety, for hugs, for a new year, for hope.

We’re waiting. Oh Lord, we’re waiting, and we’re fatigued from all the waiting. We don’t like waiting in general and this year we are certainly learning that lesson…among others.

Advent, which comes from the Latin word for “coming,” is the Church season in which we wait for God. We celebrate God coming to dwell among us in Jesus. We open our hearts to how God wants to come into our lives now. And we anticipate with hope our everlasting life with God.

I write about many things on this blog, stories featuring my family and friends and pets, creativity, travel, vegetarian recipes…all ways I experience everyday epiphanies regarding the miracles smack in front of my distractable eyes. This month I’ll focus on Advent, and I hope you’ll join me for the journey. On Sundays I’ll post daily readings; the readings for Sundays in particular are meant to accompany the lighting of candles in an Advent wreath. If that’s not part of your tradition, you can light any candle and follow along.

If you’d like to see the beautifully designed Advent devotional guide by The Creative Resource, click here.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.Psalm 139:11-12

Week 1 – The Light of Hope
November 29- December 5

Say aloud together: Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Light the first candle (middle purple candle): We light these candles to celebrate Jesus, who comes into the darkness to shine the light of hope.

Read Scripture: Luke 1:67-80
(Shorter reading: Luke 1:67-70, 76-79)

Read: Praise be to our God, who sent prophets to remind us of His covenant of love, sustain our hope, and prepare the way for our coming Lord who will shine His light in our darkness and guide our feet to the path of peace.

Pray: Most High God, thank you for the gift of people who remind us of your great love. With hope we anticipate the birth of your Son, in whose name we wait and pray, Amen.

Monday Genesis 1:3-4 What does it mean to you personally that God has the power to create light out of darkness? 
Tuesday Exodus 3:2-3 When have you seen God’s light appear in surprising places?
Wednesday Exodus 13:21-22 How does God’s light go in front of you?
Thursday 1 Kings 18:33-39 What big or small miracles have you witnessed that help you know that the Lord is God?
Friday 2 Chronicles 13:10-11 How might lighting a candle in your home remind you to honor and serve the Lord?
Saturday Psalm 19:8 How do God’s commands give light to our eyes? What does that mean for you today?

Cover image by Jan Zatloukal from Pixabay

A New Perspective on the Waiting

Last weekend I noticed myself feeling itchy-irritable. Smoke from the fires in Napa (north) and Santa Cruz (south) settled thick on our slice of the San Francisco Bay Area; if the measure of unhealthy air quality starts at a score of 150, our air measured at a ridiculous 1100+. We couldn’t open the windows, we certainly couldn’t be outside. Add a record-breaking heat wave and no air conditioning and, yah, I did not feel like a happy gal.

We’ve been waiting for the heat to break. We’ve been waiting for the fires to be extinguished. We’ve been waiting for the air to clear. We’ve been waiting for months for the pandemic to end (remember when we thought we’d be home for two to three weeks?), or a proven-safe vaccine to become available. And through most of the summer I sat on my ever-expanding rear waiting for an injury to heal.

Waiting, waiting, so much waiting. It’s felt heavy, disorienting.

Did you know there’s a spiritual term for that waiting? It’s called liminal space, from the Latin word for threshold. We’ve left normal behind and, though we throw around the term new normal like children playing Hot Potato, we haven’t actually entered that new normal yet. We’re in between. We’re standing in the doorway. We’re waiting.

Most of us don’t like to wait. We get restless, we want to move on. Blaise Pascal, writing in the 1600s, offered wisdom: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone” (do women sit easier? Let’s assume he meant to include everyone). Anyway, that seems a quarantine-worthy quote if I’ve seen one.

Flip those words around: we could solve all of humanity’s problems if we could teach all of humanity to sit quietly alone. Lofty goal for sure, but we can start with ourselves. Right now, when we have been asked – for the greater good and health of humankind – to stay mostly at home by ourselves, we can begin with God’s help to untangle some of our own problems.

Rather than feeling irritable and restless, we can choose to rest. Rather than fighting what we cannot change, we can accept this liminal space as it is and seek to receive the gifts it holds for us.

I’m finding it helpful to imagine a circle drawn on the ground around my house. This is my liminal space, this is my liminal time, and in this sacred space and time God is doing a new thing.

Despite Modern English singing on the soundtrack of my youth, I’ll stop the world and melt with you, we didn’t stop the world, the COVID-19 pandemic did. We didn’t will this change, yet here we are. This in-between time, so outside our common experience, feels dislocating, off-kilter. So let’s just go with it already. Let’s find a new perspective, looking at the contents of our lives from this different angle.

It seems like a good time to reevaluate our priorities:
* What did we do before that we want to keep doing? And what no longer serves us? (I’m thinking of all those who have realized they can ditch the commute and work from home just as well).
* How – or where – do we want to live?
* Among our many acquaintances and friends, who remains in our inner circle?
Tough questions, worthy of time alone in your room to think and pray deeply.

Already the smoke has cleared and the heat wave has broken. A safe vaccine will be found and made available eventually. This waiting time will end, we believe, and the world will have changed. We don’t yet know what those changes will entail, but we can rest in God’s loving work in us and in our midst.

One more thought: in his book Everything Belongs, theologian Richard Rohr recommends making liminal space a regular practice. “Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible….If we don’t find liminal space in our lives, we start idolizing normalcy.” Let’s topple normalcy from its throne and trust that God knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t.

Cover image by Pexels from Pixabay