As we have been preparing to welcome Advent this year, it has occurred to me with some irony that many of the most challenging times of my life have fallen during or near the Advent season. As many of us with some life experience have discovered, it is often only in retrospect that we are able to see how near to us God was during our most difficult times, though we may not have realized it while we were in the midst of them.
With all we have been through so far in 2020, Advent this year may feel less like hopeful anticipation and more like penance. During these dark, cold days, it may feel like God has abandoned us. We may feel like we are depleted; like one more thing will just be too much. We may even ask, “Where is God in all of this?” Yet I have faith that when we look back, we will, in fact, discover that Christ was with us all along; nearer to us than our own skin.
Looking back to the early days of the pandemic, when we were all seeking comfort in a variety of ways, I noticed two trends that kept appearing:
1.) people were drinking more wine, and
2.) people were learning to bake bread.
Wine and bread. Eucharistic elements in a time when none of us could partake of the Eucharist in any physical sense at all. Human beings en masse – even those who were not Christian – were craving the very elements that hold a primary role within our sacramental lives in Christ.
Advent is a time when the church waits in darkness for the One we cannot yet see. It is a time when we await the coming of Christ; the light of the world, the birth of hope. Emmanuel – God With Us. As in the early days of the pandemic, there is, within us, a visceral longing for Christ… perhaps more profoundly than ever before. We need hope. We want assurance that everything is going to be OK.
It is the beginning of Advent. It is dark now, and we cannot see what is coming. It may feel like the darkness will never end. But what if we are not abandoned at all? Perhaps in the darkness something new is being created. Perhaps Emmanuel is very, very near indeed.
Rev. Amanda Ruston
Download service booklet for Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020: Liturgy at Home Advent 1 Nov 29 2020