Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoughts on Advent

I love the Liturgical Calendar and the rhythm it brings to the year.  In years past I have reveled in Lent--a season that gives us the freedom to acknowledge and reflect upon our sinfulness and brokenness before God.  And while some people find Lent to be depressing, I find it to be cathartic and almost easier than, say, Advent.  In Lent we are allowed and encouraged to mourn this fallen world in which we live and the condition in which we find humanity.  In Advent, we are asked to wait with hope.  And, if we're honest, isn't it often easier to mourn than to wait with hope?

But this year, I need an Advent.  I need to exercise the discipline of waiting with hope.  Yes, I said discipline.  While, for children, Advent is a time of cookies and parties and carols and unjaded anticipation, as we become adults it becomes a discipline.  Once we have experienced what it means to wait for something we desperately desire--that promotion, the engagement ring, that acceptance letter, the clean bill of health--we realize what a discipline it truly is to continue to wait with hope.  

In Romans 8, Paul tells us that "we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."*   Hoping in what we do not see and waiting for it with patience is what is asked of us as we wait.  And as we wait, we can take heart in knowing what Paul tells the Corinthians, that in Jesus "it is always yes!" **

Not always "yes" to our earthly desires, but "yes" to that for which we ultimately wait and hope:

YES! God has come to us in the form of his Son, Jesus!
YES! He lived, died, and rose again to rescue us from ourselves!
YES! He will come again and perfectly reconcile us to Himself!

In Jesus, it is indeed always "yes!"


*Romans 8: 23-25
**2 Corinthians 1:19

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cold and Warmth

It's raining here. And it's getting cold.  Like 50 degrees and rainy.  Is there anything worse?  Maybe 40 degrees and rainy. Because once you get into the 30 degrees range there's a possibility of snow, and that becomes somewhat magical.  But this kind of weather is not magical.  It has me all angsty and nostalgic.  I'm listening to The Counting Crows and writing.

This time every year when we turn the corner to the weather officially being "cold" I flashback to this time of the year when I was 22-25 in Washington, DC.  We were angsty on an entirely different level.  And I'm not sure there was much nostalgia.  It was very simple, really.  We'd lived through DC's swamp of a summer, then fallen for the trap of its crisp autumn days.  The kind of days that contained magnificent colors where we had enjoyed the warmth of a pullover coupled with the smell of the last remaining hint of sunscreen in our moisturizer.

And then one day we would turn that corner into winter and DC would laugh at us for falling in love with her all over again as her temperatures plummeted and her wind burned our cheeks .

It was COLD.  And we hated it.  But we hated it together.  And we would walk through the streets (all 4 southerners, 2 mid-westerners, and 1 yankee thrown in for good measure), grumbling and griping about how cold it was, yet not realizing how we were taking for granted the fact that we were all there freezing together.
We would leave work, cuss the wind, run for the Metro, cuss the Metro for being delayed and then cuss the wind AGAIN because a Metro platform is a wind-tunnel all its own.  What we hoped would be relief once aboard the train was the blast of hot air that smelled as if someone had burned his garbage and piped it through the Metro heating system.  So we would cuss again and grumble some more.

But in the midst of all this cussing and grumbling was the re-telling of the day's stories.  "Which crazy constituent called?  Did that cute guy from Kennedy's office walk by today?  How were the students?  Did they behave?  Beth, what exactly do you DO at your job?"  And once we arrived at our destination--usually a certain Mexican restaurant that served one $8 pomegranate margarita that packed the punch of two--those conversations would continue and evolve. "Your ex-boyfriend from home emailed?  What does HE want? That guy you've gone out with once or twice...you're really starting to like him?  What in THE WORLD are we going to wear to this 90's party this weekend?  If I get ONE more lecture about the way I'm leading my small group..."

And we would eat and drink and be warmed from the burn of the tequila, the spice of the Mexican food, and the glow each of us radiated as we sat and exhaled amongst friends who were family.  Then just as we would reach our peak of warmth, it would be time to be thrown back outside.  But this time it wasn't so cold.  Oh the temperature had continued to drop, but we weren't bothered by it.  Blame it on the tequila or blame it on the conversation, but after times around that table the wind didn't seem so violent. The Metro was quieter after rush hour had subsided. And I remember one distinct night of having the train all to ourselves and dancing through the various cars.

Eventually, we would arrive at our respective homes, dotted along 3 different Orange Line stops, fall into bed tucked under layers of blankets, and know that in a few hours we'd have to start the next cold day, but that for now we were warm beyond comprehension.