Advent: A reflection of a liturgical junkie and culturally insensitve blogger
Does anyone else's soul long for Advent the whole year round?
I grew up in a church where we did the candle light thing during December and read some nice reading about Advent-something. I remember sitting there and wondered how the families were chosen to be the "Advent families". It was a like a big, random raffle to me. That's all I remember. Needless to say, I did not grow up in a very traditional or liturgical background.
In college, I occasionally attended an Anglican church, and something about the tradition and liturgy filled a thirst that I didn't know I had.
The first time I went to a PCA Good Friday Service, I was stunned. You end in darkness. TOTAL, SILENT DARKNESS. The service is breath-taking. I don't think I can ever not go to that service now that I have experience it.
Then, with the first Christmas Advent, we re-light Jesus into the darkness, candle by candle, moment by moment, declaring a hope that is not realized. I sort of felt jipped for the years I didn't know about this option of Christmas celebration (and I am in no way blaming my parents or unhappy with my church up-bringing. I am actually very, very grateful for it. I'm not even sure I'd appreciate the liturgy if I had grown up with it.).
This put my popping-out-a-Swiss-chocolate-every-morning-for-an-extra-breakfast-treat-advent tradition to shame. And this is what I have learned about Advent.
Darkness is so key to Advent. This seems in total paradox with holiday cheer, doesn't it?
In a Bible I had growing up, on the blank page between the Old Testament and New Testament, I wrote these words:
After 600 years of silence...
600 years is a long time, people. I can barely wait 6 minutes at Starbucks, and coffee has nothing on eternal salvation or help in suffering.
600 years between the last prophets and the coming of Jesus. And what did Israel have to hold them during that time? What culture, what church was Jesus born into and what faith did he fulfill? If you don't know much about the Jewish culture, let's do a completely inappropriate reference to Fiddler on the Roof. "Tradition... Tradition!"
Tradition. Liturgy. The practice of having faith in silence, in total darkness, in consuming oppression. Don't get me wrong, it is pretty clear in Jesus' life that these practices got pretty messed up and were on the verge of destroying the Jewish faith (and let's not even get started in the breaks over this stuff between Orthodox Christians, Catholics, and Protestants).
But there is a lesson for us non-denominational-chocolate-eating-adventist out there.
We hope for our light, we do not see it. We pray, but we pray into silent darkness. Our salvation is complete, but not present now.
We hope for our light.
And there is something very important about reflecting on this principle. This is week 1 of Advent. Hoping for our light while we live in darkness. Anticipation of justice and redemption.
Stir up your power, O Lord,
and come to our help with mighty strength,
that what our sins impede
the grace of your mercy may hasten.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
New English translation according to the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal. 2010