the impossibility of advent
Ready for the least surprising summary of spiritual good intentions?
I was going to have an amazing Advent. It’s my favorite season of the church calendar, and I was going to live it. I had plans, I had prayers, I had promises. I would reflect deeply and write profusely and enter mindfully into the mystery of Christmas.
And then. (Always and-then.)
Life interrupted. Everyone got sick.
Work interrupted. I got busy.
Evil interrupted. Joy got sucked straight out of the season.
By the end of this weekend, when we were supposed to be lighting the pink candle and singing of joy, I felt drained and discouraged. Grumpy and Grinch-like, I stomped downstairs with a bucket and a rag to scrub the basement floor in preparation for our Christmas guests.
Kneeling down and washing dirty to clean felt like the only halfway holy thing I could do.
And as I scrubbed, I tried to pray. I tried to pray for peace. For patience. For forgiveness. I tried to pray for mindfulness. For generosity. For simplicity.
But every prayer felt impossible. I was too selfish or stubborn, or the world was too broken and evil. Nothing could budge, no matter how hard I scrubbed, how much soapy water I slopped on the dingy tile.
Until I realized: it’s supposed to feel impossible. Advent is nothing but.
Prepare for the inbreaking of the divine? Good luck with that one. Wrap your head around the mystery of incarnation and virgin birth and angelic messengers? Inconceivable. Wrestle your sinful soul into a place of readiness to meet your Creator? Laughable prospect.
Advent is supposed to feel impossible. It’s the humility of our humanness when brought to our knees before the gift of grace. It’s the overwhelming weight of our darkness when faced with the brilliance of true light. It’s the lifting up of lowly and the bending down of divine and the upending of all our expectations. It’s the constant, humming, throbbing beat of love’s heart pulsing out life into the cold universe.
All of which feels impossible. And when faced with impossibility, all I can do is lift up my arms to the God of Advent, a tired shrug as much as a prayerful plea, and say Come, please, come.
Come, Child of Peace. Come, Emmanuel. Come, God-With-Us.
Keep coming. We’ll keep trying.
Impossible as it all seems.