Recently a therapist shared with me that their practice is holding space for humans living in a dying world. They said, “Humans are hurting constantly.” A hurt so deep and constant, I suggest, it might provoke thoughts of impatience, lostness, isolation, abandonment, and deep seeded fear.
Here arrives Advent: the beginning of the Church’s liturgical calendar year and a decree to wait.
What does waiting mean for us today? Does waiting hold immense weight? Does it feel like an anchor? Does it taste, smell, and unfold as fear?
As I read the Gospel text from the lectionary for the first Sunday of this Advent season, I searched for hope.
Let’s read Matthew 24:36-44 from the Common English Bible together and then piece together our present hope in a said to be “dying world.”
Gospel: 36But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows.37 As it was in the time of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Human One.38 In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark.39 They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One will be like that.40 At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left.41 Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left.42 Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming.43 But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house.44 Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.
Matthew out the gate gives us a breath of pause from our worry and fear over missing the arrival of Christ. “Nobody knows what day or hour…only the Father…” Can you imagine what life could be like if we spent less time worrying or living in fear of missing out? If we didn’t allow capitalism’s scarcity mentality to impact our ability to wait for more meaningful interaction; offering?
This passage has been used to intimidate a generation of Christians, I think, to view Christ’s coming in a light of “you better watch out…you better not cry…” This particular interpretation blends Christ’s coming as transactional when indeed our waiting and preparing is for celebration, full of hope, grace, and joy that God chooses us every time.
Renewed interpretation: No one knows when a shift is going to take place in our life cycles, useful or un-useful, we hope for such things, remain open, and take comfort that God; our creator, knows and holds this weight of waiting for us.
We are tasked, I believe, to do work in preparing our house, our fields, our communities for the coming of Christ not in fear or worry, but in joy that a light is coming to replenish our offerings.
Here in our advent waiting our souls stir at the whisper of our mother creator. The spirit calls and calls in hopes that here in the waiting and the unjust hardships of our current world, you’ll hear her warmth share “I’m still here.”
Reflection: How do we summon hope instead of fear in our waiting? How do we engage our patience without the rising of scarcity or worry?
I believe Matthew is suggesting that our preparedness for the coming of Christ comes from releasing control of needing to know every divine detail. Our preparedness comes from naming our world and individual tendencies to worry, to fear, and light our candles of hope to claim “God is still here” even in our waiting holding the weight so we can prepare for the light.
Collect: Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away our anxiety of darkness and fear. Help us to put on the armor of Christ’s coming and present light; our hope – now in the time of our present waiting remind us to breathe and be.