For the last several weeks, I have gathered with friends to participate in "Advent conversations". On Sundays, the conversations have taken place in a Sunday School classroom and on Thursdays, they have taken place in a coffee house. These times of talking and listening have really enriched my Advent journey and have caused me to think a lot about what it means to live in anticipation. Of course, I do not need any lessons on anticipation this year. After all, I have been dreaming of what shape this new faith community will take, waiting for news that Kevin has been offered a job in Jacksonville, and listening for how the pieces of our lives will fit together.
I'm starting to wonder, though if maybe Advent is not about learning to wait, but is more about surrendering to the mystery of what lies beyond our waiting. This is a very challenging idea, I know. I want to plan, predict and imagine the possibilities; yet, the events of the first Christmas remind me that even with all of my dreaming, I can never imagine the way that love, joy, hope and peace will break into our lives. Few would have expected it to happen in a stable, in the form of a tiny baby, or through an unwed mother.
On the first Sunday of Advent, the altar at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church looked much like a scene from the wilderness. There were no clusters of greenery, no poinsettias on display, and no Christ child anywhere to be found. In fact, even on this third week of Advent, the stable remains empty. Part of me wants to go ahead and get it over with - someone please put the baby in the manger so this stable does not look so bare! It just isn't right! I am so eager to have my expectations fulfilled; yet, truthfully, our expectations are seldom fulfilled. Sometimes we are left wanting, other times we could never have imagined things would have unfolded so wonderfully. In either case, we could never have predicted the end results of our waiting.
My prayer is that in each of our anticipations, we will have the courage to live into each moment, not dwelling on expectations, but surrendering to the One who has and who will be born again in people, places and possibilities beyond our imaginations. Instead of fostering impatience, I pray that the empty stable will prompt a greater awareness of where Christ is waiting to be born in and among us.
Blessings as we continue on our Advent journeys...