A Different Advent, and Yet…

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” —Isaiah 40:3

Advent is upon us again, that season marked by heavy anticipation and the kind of hopefulness that has us holding our breath, watching for the newness of God to be born among us again.

Advent is traditionally a time of waiting, of making ourselves ready for the in-breaking of God in ways we cannot fully imagine.

But this year seems so different. Maybe it’s because it feels like all we’ve been doing for the last nine months is waiting… Waiting for the numbers of infected, sick and dead from COVID to lessen. Waiting for a vaccine to be developed and distributed. Waiting for this relentless pandemic to finally end. Waiting to worship and sing and gather in ways more familiar. Waiting to reunite with the family and friends from whom we’ve been separated for all these many months. Our waiting consumes our days now. And it feels more like endless, painful drudgery than sacred practice.

Yet into this exhausting reality the prophet’s voice still proclaims: “In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” The ‘wilderness’ experience feels more familiar to us this year, too. We are somewhere we’ve never been, surrounded by uncertainties we don’t fully understand and cannot control, longing for a way out and forward. And yet it is in this very place that we are to prepare the way for God to enter in.

If we can relate more profoundly this year to the practice of waiting, to the experience of being surrounded by untamed wilderness, then perhaps this is also the year that we can more fully appreciate the invitations of Advent. Perhaps the proclamation of Isaiah that every valley shall be lifted up and the rough places made plain feels less a poetic abstraction than a steady drumbeat of prayer. And maybe the Hope that ushers us into this season feels more authentic, our trust in a God who has always done amazing things in entirely unexpected ways more full-hearted.

We are an Advent people, after all. May each of us journey in this blessed season more attuned to the ways God is abundantly still present, with a faith that believes God will indeed do a new and wondrous thing.

O come, O come, Emmanuel. Enter into our lives as they are, full of wilderness spaces and rough places, and make all things new. Reveal yourself among us, we pray, and transform our waiting to a hope that does not disappoint us. Amen.

With you in the waiting,

Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister