I am always glad to come around again to the season of Advent. It’s a reminder of how much we all need time and space for preparation, for hope, for light in darkness. And yes, it’s always a struggle to fight the urge to leap forward into the celebration of Christmas and the urge to get caught-up in the excess of the holiday season. But somehow all that seems like part of Advent—figuring out how to live in this in-between time when the reign of God is not yet fully upon us. It’s about learning what the life of faith is all about—learning to live in between the assurance of God’s promise to us and the fulfillment of that promise. I am captivated by Frederick Buechner’s take on Advent, particularly the idea that this pause, this in-between-time of Advent matches the intensity of Christmas itself; that God is as much in the waiting as in the arrival; that God is powerfully present in our waiting:
The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised the baton.
In the silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself.
You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are only aware of the beating of your heart.
The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
The Salvation Army Santa Claus clangs his bell. The sidewalks are so crowded you can hardly move. Exhaust fumes are the chief fragrance in the air, and everybody is as bundled up against any sense of what all the fuss is really about as they are bundled up against the windchill factor.
But if you concentrate just for an instant, far off in the deeps of you somewhere you can feel the beating of your heart. For all its madness and lostness, not to mention your own, you can hear the world itself holding its breath.
(Frederick Buechner, Waiting in the Dark)
Sometimes that waiting time is interminable. Sometimes our energy wanes and we lose our focus on the energy present in the waiting. But in the pause, in the silence, God is there. With us. May this Advent season bring you a deep awareness of this magnificent pause.
In Christ’s Peace,