At this time last year, my family was waiting to see events unfold. My husband’s consultant work had come to an end. I was still a seminary student, finishing up my studies and in between full-time employment. We were in a vulnerable state to say the least. There were frequent tears, tensions over not being able to give our kids everything the had become used to, the shame of feeling needy in front of family and friends, and the dissonance of walking the balance beam of faith that struggles to hold onto hope when your humanity it so tempted to despair. It was advent embodied. I see that now as I could not see it then. We were waiting for salvation of sorts, eager for Christ to show up in our everyday life.
As I have been reflecting on the advent story found in Luke, I find that the events of the past year have heightened my awareness of the longing and vulnerability found in the text. Mary who takes on the shame of scandal with the quiet knowledge that God has a surprise for the world growing within her. Joseph, who endures the quiet murmurs from his community coming in and out of his carpenter’s shop. Zecharaiah who was both challenged and graced with silence after his angelic encounter. His wife, Elizabeth, who had likely given up hope of parenthood altogether and suddenly finds her expectations blown apart with an unexpected pregnancy. The bitter and sweet often go hand in hand. God’s story frequently places His people in situations that feel hard, scary, and require utter dependance upon Him. The miracle is how God’s presence in those hard places serve to shape and transform both them and us.
This advent finds us in a different season. Looking back over the past year, I marvel in wonder at God’s provision and His timing. We rejoice in the work God has given us to live into and how He has expanded our understanding of place and community in the process. I reflect on the depth of relationship that comes from walking through challenges with people, and not always having the right words to say. The gift of longing and vulnerability has made me aware of the seemingly small provisions from God’s lavish hand. Waking each day expectant for God to show up somewhere, somehow is abundance. Waking to a body that breathes and moves, eyes that can see, a voice that can laugh and sing, in company with kids and a spouse who share the story is delight. I am slowly learning that gratitude and joy can be found in the bitter and the sweet of life. That is the choice before us. When the next season of vulnerability comes our way, which it is bound to, can I see it as the gift is is capable of being?
The advent, the waiting, the longing will always be with me. My perspective will again be clouded by the worries of life and what I think I deserve or need. I will find the things of this world leaving me hungry for more, regardless of whether I have plenty or am in want. At the root of it all is this profound need for God’s presence in the everyday and my awareness of it. Christ has come and is to come. We hang in the balance and mystery of that paradox. As we live into advent hope, may we find the joy that accompanies it rubbing off on us in unexpected ways. Merry Christmas, friends.