Carol Hallman: We live in an Advent world
Around us carols are being sung, trees are being bought and decorated, cookies are baking in ovens, and people are out in the stores buying gifts that will make people happy, or that is at least what the advertisers want you to believe. It’s easy to fall into that mindset; IF…I just buy the right gifts everything will be fine.
In the church we move into the season of Advent. It is the time when we prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Christ child long ago but also lift up our waiting for the return of Christ one day. It is a time when our songs tend to be more plaintive and penitential in nature than the carols on the radio. Again we hear “O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel” and “Keep awake, be always ready” and “Come o long expected Jesus, born to set all people free.”
There is an apparent disconnect with a world already celebrating Christmas and a church journeying through Advent. I however believe that it’s the other way around, despite all the joyful singing and Christmas carols being sung I believe that we actually live in an Advent world. The Christmas we celebrate is too sugar coated and saccharine and has little resemblance to the reality of the world around us.
If you read the headlines in the paper you will find a great of pain and sorrow, anguish, fear and even anger. Our eyes as a nation may be on Ferguson and the decision of the Grand Jury and the anger and violence that we see but perhaps lost in that story is that no matter what happened a young man is dead and a police officer will have to live with taking someone’s life. Yet here in our own community there are families who have buried young men who have been victims of gun violence. There are many other families who will have empty places around their tables this year due to the death of loved ones; grief still heavy on their hearts. There are women (and some men) who are living in families where they are abused, and the same with children. There are many families who are struggling this year because of one or more of the members are out of work. There are homeless wandering our streets and yes we have a lovely new homeless shelter but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that there are still homeless. There are many families working multiple jobs just to make ends meet. There are families struggling with illness. The world we live in resides in Advent.
As we look at Advent scripture we see them echo the thought that our world is not okay. We are surrounded by suffering and injustice and we’re not sure our faith is strong enough to sustain us. Though we long for a Savior, the very depth of passion of that longing wearies our soul. Our voices cry out with Isaiah the prophet “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” But we ourselves often feel helpless and hopeless. We sit in Advent. And we wait. Waiting is hard in a world which wants an answer today. It is hard in a world that applauds the arrivals, and the finish lines and the end product.
We are waiting.
And we will continue to wait until we can all find ourselves looking at the people around us and see Christ in them. All of them: the hungry, the homeless, the prisoner, the lost, the grieving, the rich, the poor, all of them. The ones we love and the ones we hate. Until we can all work together for the common good we will live in an Advent world. For Christmas only comes when our hearts are open and our eyes can see God in the least of these.
Carol Hallman is resident pastor at First UCC, 207 West Horah St.