I used to have a student who would read the last page of every book I assigned before we started chapter one. It drove me crazy, and she knew it. People have always enjoyed getting a rise out of me, probably because I give them the reaction they want - feigned and exaggerated irritation. She made no secret about her habit, turning the pages loudly and giggling, to announce her rebellion. I joked with my students that reading ahead was a sin. But they never believed me.
And the thing is, I want to flip ahead too. But I wait. I ponder. I invite the longing to linger. Because Advent is a time when we think about what it must have been like to wait for the appearing of Christ. To imagine God taking on flesh and dwelling among us. To be one of the shepherds in the field that night. Or to be Mary, heavy with child, travelling, and marvelling over the fact that she would soon hold God.
Advent is for us. A reminder. A forced pause before the celebration. And it invites those with heavy, aching hearts, to bring them to church. To cry in the dim light. To wait for God beside others. Some of us are waiting for comfort. Some, for answers. For hope. For healing. Some practice advent because of tradition, but others, out of desperation. They have been holding their breath for a long, long time.
I have been sick and there are no answers. I wake up tired. Write tired. Minister tired. We light the advent candles, one by one, week by week. We do not yet sing: “Joy to the World! the Lord has come,” even though He has come. Instead, we sing, “O come, O come, Immanuel.” And on Christmas Eve, we gather inside the church after dark. Each of us holds a candle and we pass fire from wick to wick until the entire room is glowing.
The glow is made brighter because of the darkness. And our final hymn lingers until every last candle has been lit. We abide in the already-but-not-yet for a few moments, together, before returning home to wrap presents, drink hot chocolate, watch “Elf,” and usher Christmas in.
Listen to this sketch