I didn't grow up in denominational tradition that observed the bluesy, brooding season of Advent. I don't remember preparing for Jesus' birth so much as it simply happening.
But when I 'discovered' Advent while attending an Episcopal Church in college it opened up a whole new spiritual vocabulary for me - grief, longing, impatience, hopeful waiting, in-between spaces. These were words my closeted queer self needed to hear and it was a gift to find a season of the church year that created space to integrate my spiritual life and named the holy discomfort I felt so profoundly.
The First Sunday of Advent is literally the Church's New Year. But it begins with an honest look at the unresolved, painful parts of our human story: injustice and fear, longing for healing and wholeness amid brokenness, awareness of systems of power that oppress and dehumanize and terrorize. We're in such a mess we implore God to DO SOMETHING. There's no way we can fix it ourselves. One of this year's scripture passages from Isaiah 64 gives this prayer urgency and honesty.
"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence."
Out of the authenticity and depth of our longing comes a flame of hope...and later the flames of peace, joy, and love. And the flickering darkness eventually cradles Emmanuel, the One who Saves. This One comes to an unexpected people at an unexpected time, to an unexpected mother and an unexpected family. This Saving One does not stand far off from the mess but dives headlong into it, and sings: songs of deliverance, of unconditional love and grace for all creation, for all people.
May this Advent bring hope to the unresolved, messy, and challenging spaces in your life, in the life of our churches, and our world. May you hear the Emmanuel's voice singing over you in love, and join in a song that heals, restores, and births hope in unexpected places.