November 28, 2022
“In this strange season when we are suspended between realization and expectation, may we be found honest about the darkness and perceptive of the light.” – Jack Boozer, Professor of Religion, Emory University and community activist (1918-1989).
Never has Advent been more poignant. In this Advent season of darkness, we are in the throes of preparation and waiting for the birth of the Christ child.
The Realities of Living in a Dark Time
In a world of war and conflict, 150 million people worldwide living in homelessness, three percent of the world’s population migrating because of climate change, poverty, pandemics and inadequate access to health care, and an epidemic of violence, it is a dark time. Imagining any light seeping through is difficult. The eradication of injustice, disease, racism, poverty, war, conflict, violence and inequality seems very far off.
Darkness surrounds us. Darkness can signify sin, injustice, racism and inequality. We are suspended between the realities of life and the hope of redemption.
We live in this liminal space, this threshold between what is and what is to be. And like every paradox, there are nocturnal creatures who flourish in the dark. Those who come alive as the sun sets and welcome the beauty of the night and the mystery of the stars.
Preparation and Anticipation for Good Things to Come
In the midst of the realities of this world, we begin to prepare for something that we believe will come and bring joy. I remember in the last weeks of pregnancy all the preparations for the birth of my baby that I knew would come. There were blankets, onesies, sheets, diapers, a crib, and cleaning for the gift of the child that would bless our family and the world.
Preparation itself is a kind of sacrament. Preparation is making sacred very ordinary habits and rituals so that the Extraordinary may come. It is cleaning the house. Baking bread. Setting the table for the guests who will come. It is welcoming the Guest.
I have always loved the work of preparation as much as the moment for which is being prepared. Twenty-two years of Monday morning planning for the next week’s worship service is my most consistent, vivid and joyful memory of ministry. There is no joy greater than planning weekly worship, Eucharist, baptisms, funerals, weddings and vigils. (Needless to say, working with Don Saliers and Maury Alums and wonderful worship teams throughout the years is no small gift). Caring for a community’s spiritual life in worship, with music, prayers, attending to injustice, creating space and making ready to proclaim the Word is sacred preparation- so that Christ may come. It is preparing a vigil to comfort the broken-hearted after a senseless gun shooting so that the Christ of the broken-hearted can appear.
Advent is a Time to Ponder the Light of Hope, Faith, Joy and Peace
Advent is the season that offers great joy. This season of preparation is living in the darkness and lighting a small candle each week to illumine the way. It is knowing and recognizing the injustices, pain and wounds of the world. We are never far from the darkness and pain. But we can prepare for the One that we know will come bringing light in the most unexpected, surprising, simple ways and ordinary places.
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe