Suspended Between Advents
By: The Rev. Liz (McQuitty) Kronenberg
Mo. Liz wrote this article in 2019 while serving at Trinity, Redlands. It is being reprinted in the 2021 Seasonal Journal of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Colorado Springs.
A Prayer for Advent
By: Walter Brueggemann
In our secret yearnings
we wait for your coming,
and in our grinding despair
we doubt that you will.
And in this privileged place
we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than do we and by those who despair more deeply than do we.
Look upon your church and its pastors
in this season of hope
which runs so quickly to fatigue
and in this season of yearning
which becomes so easily quarrelsome.
Give us the grace and the impatience
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
to the edges of our fingertips.
We do not want our several worlds to end.
Come in your power
and come in your weakness
in any case
and make all things new.
I love this prayer because of how honest it is. I don’t know about you, but I find it really tempting this time of year to only focus on the shiny, exciting parts of the holiday season, and try to stamp out any element that might ask me to lean in to the parts of my heart that actually find this holiday season to be a bit painful and confusing.
Yet, Advent invites us into both of these realities. It invites us to anticipate with much hope the coming celebration of the birth of our Lord those many years ago in Bethlehem. It urges us to prepare our hearts to receive anew the story and the promise of the Christ child once again. It ignites faith as we remember the miracle of Christ’s first advent, the humble conditions surrounding it, yet the mighty and powerful work God did in life of Jesus the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God.
Advent also invites us to see the world and ourselves as they are. It reminds us that there is a great deal of darkness and despair in the world and calls us to repentance for the ways that we either by choice or by ignorance are complicit in those things. There is sense in which this season alerts us to the many ways that the Kingdom of God on earth, although inaugurated by the first advent of Christ, is still agonizingly incomplete and will remain so until the second advent of Christ, for which we still watch and wait and long.
Advent is both a season of anticipation and vigilant preparation and also of repentance and lament. It is a season that reminds us that we are suspended between Advents.
All throughout the gospels we hear Jesus talking about the Kingdom of God, what it’s like, and how we can recognize it. It looks like the last and least of these being elevated to the most honored place. It looks like the least lovable most lost among us being found and shown just how deeply loved they truly are. It looks like the hungry being fed, the widow and orphaned being given a home, and those who are separated from community restored. It looks like love triumphing over evil every single time.
This is the Kingdom of God that we catch glimpses of when we’re open to it. It’s the vision that Christ began when he was birthed to a young virgin and the gift of the work we as the church get to participate in even as we pray for its completion. But until then, we remain suspended. We remain watchful. We must wait. And waiting is hard. This is why I find Brueggemann’s prayer so helpful during this season. If we really let ourselves lean in to the depth of what this season invites us into, it can feel like an endless wait, like an artificial marking of time. Sometimes the darkness can feel so overwhelming we forget what light looks like. We begin to doubt and waver. Our hope languishes with each passing day.
Yet we remain stubbornly watchful and look for the day when Christ will come again to make all things new. In the meantime, our work is to watch and repent and hope and pattern our lives according that of Christ. Because in the great mystery that God is writing in our history, we have been invited to be co-creators with God in the inbreaking of God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. And until the day when it is complete, we will continue to pray as Christ has taught us, and as all the saints since then have prayed, that God’s Kingdom will come, on earth as it is in heaven. Because we know that as dark as darkness can be, it will never overcome the light.
Advent blessings to each and every one of you!