Advent is right on time this year. The word Advent embodies hope and remembrance and anticipation of something bursting through, of light coming into darkness. Advent is active, stretching and seeking for something we know is on its way. And it’s joyful; even though we’re waiting in darkness, we know the light will come.
I am thinking of Advent a bit earlier than most in some part because I’m a music minister, but also because Advent is where I live mostly, and because God led me through the strangest circumstances to a sweet podcast and some seriously anointed music all about the subject.
One mention of an author sent me searching for interviews, which led me one day to “The Glorious in the Mundane” podcast with Christy Nockels. I had never heard of her before, but quickly figured out she was a Christian worship leader and songwriter, and she was basically interviewing other musicians and authors in her Nashville circle of peers. Christy and her guests all have a folksy, southern vibe, and they are open-hearted in their language about Jesus in that particular southern way that can be a bit unnerving to someone with northeastern Catholic sensibilities. But I quickly understood that these women had gone through some stuff, and that their faith was hard-won. Christy herself speaks throughout the series about a dark time in her life in which she wrestled to find real, lasting trust in God. In a time and position in which people looked to her to bolster their faith, she struggled to keep her own, and in her dark season, she had to fight for her belief that God had her cause and that she was not alone, even though it sure seemed that way. The ways in which God broke through to her in that time were small to the eyes of the world, but in her heart were huge, life-changing revelations. God made a way for Christy in the same way He speaks to me, in symbols. In one episode, Christy told the story of a time her sister-in-law brought her a potted amaryllis bulb as a symbol for the dark night of the soul she was enduring. An amaryllis blooms in the cold; it fights to break through the icy soil in conditions that are counter-intuitive to new life, but it comes anyway. Blooming in the dark bleakness of winter, an amaryllis is a sign of hope; that God is working in ways we cannot see.
All around me today, I see this hunger for hope. For some, it’s because of election results. For others, it’s the reaction to those results. In still others, it’s illness or everyday circumstances crowding in and blocking out light. But there’s no doubt about it, people are looking for Something to break through, something big and unexpected and transformative. We know we can’t do it alone, and perhaps there’s something in our hearts that recognizes the feeling that, despite appearances, it’s on its way. Maybe it will come for us in Advent or Christmas, and maybe it will change everything.
If you’re seeking Something, you might consider Advent an invitation, or maybe just a respite. Light candles, snuggle with a dog, and listen to something* that brings your heart peace. Breathe. That’s what I did last night, and it really helped! One thing I know for sure, my friend, you’re not alone.
*I always recommend anything by Audrey Assad, and I also recommend the sometimes folksy, new Christmas music from Christy Nockels herself, particularly her ‘Advent Hymn’ (or come to the Chapel, where I will certainly be singing it as often as I can…)