Advent / by Sarah Schwartz

I.

It was a kind email, affirming my character and skill set, and wishing me the best in the future, even though my future wouldn't be with that employer. It wasn't the first time I had received an email saying I didn't get the position I applied for, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

It's a part of life, applying for things and not getting them, and certainly a part of young adulthood. At first read, I was disappointed, but touched at the managers kindness (she certainly didn't owe me a personal email) and went about the rest of my busy day.

A few hours later, I was singing along with the radio on my drive home, when, without warning, the faucets behind my eyes turned all the way to the left—releasing a steady and instantaneous stream of ugly, can't-catch-my-breath, someone-call-my-Mom tears from my eyes.

Two minutes later, I pulled into my driveway, having managed to make it home through a fog of sobs and goopy mascara. I turned off the engine, covered my face with my hands, and cried some more.

It was about more than the job—I knew that. It was what the job symbolized. That job meant progress, movement, change—and oh, how desperately I needed something, anything, to change.

II.

"Maybe you should write about advent," my counselor said, as I kicked off my shoes and tucked my legs beneath me on the overstuffed leather sofa in her office. "Since you are in your own kind of advent these days."

"But isn't that a little narcissistic?" I replied, uncomfortable with relating my seemingly small longings with the season. "I mean, I see the parallel. Advent is about waiting, and I am learning to wait, and be present as I wait. But advent isn't about me. It's about the coming of Christ, and the greater meta-narrative of humanity waiting for a Savior to come and make things right."

"Point taken," she said, her lips curving ever so slightly into a smile, calling me out on my tendency to avoid the stirrings of my heart without saying a word to that effect.

"But it's also about inviting Christ into your waiting, into your here and now. It's about inviting him to meet you in this space."

III.

If you were to ask, I'm not sure I could articulate just what it is I'm waiting for. I'd probably trip over a few words about feeling stuck, of being afraid of never finishing my (wildly impractical/not super employable) masters degree, or avoid eye contact as I tell you how my heart got turned upside down and inside out a few years ago, and that it's been in hiding ever since.

I'd tell you about my friends moving away, or my ongoing struggle with depression, or maybe mention how I'm afraid I'm falling behind in life, and should have my ish together by this point. I'd say I'm nervous that I'm going to wake up in 10 years and still be just as stuck as I am currently—relationally, professionally, emotionally. How things just feel a little hopeless right now.

And then I'd probably blush and apologize for bothering you with such first world, white girl problems, especially with the realities of true suffering and tragedy in our midst.

IV.

Advent, I suppose, is a lesson in hope, an opportunity to reorient ourselves towards Christ, who, through the resurrection, that most wild and impossible and improbable thing, has given us new birth into a living hope. It is an opportunity to invite him into our longing, our waiting, our hopes, & maybe to remember afresh that he has always been there, in the center of it all.

And that perhaps his heart is big enough to care about all of them, all of us.

V.

"Advent is a time when we have a chance, if we want to take the chance, of getting in touch with what we deeply yearn for and do not have.

I think one of the things that Jesus does when he comes into Galilee preaching and goes ultimately to Jerusalem is to tell people not to take reality lying down...to awake in them this wild, crazy desire. Yearning, which is always already there, for that which is impossible. For bodies to be healed. For the brokenness to be brought into wholeness. For the disasters of our world to turn into actual peace.

It is only if we really enter into Advent that we can be surprised, astonished, blown away by the coming of that which so far exceeds what is possible, what is programmable that we can actually break loose in tongues, in rejoicing, in rejoicing that has no words.

There are those who are poor, who are broken, who are destroyed everyday who can sing and sigh and yearn, “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” Can we? Dare we?

That is the challenge and the promise of Advent."

(Ted Jennings)