Posted by: edsohn | December 21, 2008

A season of waiting

I thought I’d post on ML some of the thoughts that jadanzzy, david and myself presented at ATPC a few weeks ago, as well as some of my own further thoughts on the topic.  A little lengthy but please bear with me.

Advent may have been first celebrated sometime in the 4th century.  It was a season of preparation for a holy feast borrowing from an already celebrated pagan tradition (a celebration of Sol, perhaps, a Syrian sun god).  As December 25 began to be nailed down as the date to honor Christ’s birth, the early Christians created a season of fasting, similar to Lent, in anticipation of what became the Feast of Christ’s Mass (Christmas!).

Wait, hold on a sec.  A fast?  We’re not just talking about toning down the consumerism (which you might have heard a great sermon about recently).  We’re talking about doing the exact opposite!  Fasting during Lent, for instance, has a smack of deprivation, of holy abstinence from worldly needs, like types of food or entertainment.  Lent is accompanied with an attitude of the Great Christian Fitness and Diet Plan, where we all get serious about getting into better spiritual “shape”.  And while there’s a danger of piousness and legalism in practicing discipline, I think there’s also a real visceral sense of anticipation, of longing, of hunger and yearning.

Advent has no such association, but it should! The word Advent itself MEANS “coming”, implying that something has not yet arrived, denoting a sense of incompleteness.  Advent’s appearance on the Christian calendar remembers the waiting of an ancient nation (Israel) for the COMING of its legendary, prophesied Savior king.  Israel waited for generations, especially through 400 years of radio silence from the Lord after the last of the prophets up til the birth of Jesus.  They longed and yearned for LIFETIMES for Messiah, the redeeming superhero, the arrival of the One who would make right all which was wrong.

Growing up, I often thought of Advent as a contrived game of make-believe.  Why do we engage in the theater of “waiting for baby Jesus” when he actually already came  thousands of years ago?  But today, I would posit that Advent still holds potential to be an incredibly rich spiritual experience that informs and speaks into our life stories.

For instance, I’ve been thinking about my life, and how crummy things have sometimes been lately.  My job is difficult, I’m not really great at it, and there isn’t a lot of margin for error, especially in this economy.  It’s extremely time and energy consuming.  I want to be doing something drastically different at some point in life, but I don’t know when that might happen.  And as for the other moving parts of life, they certainly haven’t yet fallen in place, like who I might marry (if I’m to marry at all), what plan lies ahead for my parents, if/when my loans will ever be taken care of, etc.  I give it all my best stab, but like any single 28-year-old that is two and a half years out of law school and working in my first real professional job, with around $100k of student loans still remaining… a lot of question marks are to be expected, right?  My story lacks resolution, at the moment.

And so, from the big picture view, my whole life is in a season of Advent. My friends can tell you, my heart has been groaning, yearning, panicked and frenzied, even whining… for something better.

As we remember humanity’s anticipation of its great Redemption, perhaps we can consider what we are waiting for in life.  Or remember what you have waited for, in the past.  Maybe it was waiting for Santa, on Christmas eve, awake in bed.  Maybe it was waiting for your SAT scores to come out.  Maybe it was the night before you said your vows and became one soul and one flesh with the love of your life.  Maybe it was that last week of pregnancy when your baby was due.  What was your heart like?  How did you feel?

I invite you to join me in these last days of Advent to embrace a sense of longing, desperate, active belief that the best has yet to come.



  1. Very nice piece, Ed. Truly, all of us do wait for different types of advents…

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