“I found my way back to the way of life, the journey on which — it suddenly occurred to me — every juncture appears to be but another beginning.”
Scott Cairns in Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer
The Christian tradition claims that though we live in time, in the world, in particularity, that we also live in an alternative time. This kairos time (kairos means “the right or appropriate time to say or do the right or appropriate thing”) is guided by the Holy Spirit and made visible by the Christian Year.
This coming weekend we celebrate the beginning of a new Christian Year as we welcome the season of Advent. This season is a season of reflection, preparation, and remembering. It is a season of beginning again, of the hope-filled promise of salvation’s birth.
It makes sense that one way we prepare is through the act of paying attention. We begin by cleaning the house of our souls: taking away the clutter, making room for the new, and getting rid of those things that distract us. Then, we gather with others to re-member. We do all of this as we pay attention to the weather, to the signs and wonders happening around us, and slow down long enough to see God emerge in us and in the world.
In the early church, the season of Advent was a season of prayer and fasting. At our house, my family and I will abstain from screens throughout the week and mark the passage of time with candles (Advent Wreath) as we remember our story and God’s story. We will also make room to develop our Jesus-imagination and sense of awe. Music will be a staple throughout the week, as well as poetry, literature, and cooking together.
In worship we will also mark time with the Advent Wreath and with scriptures about waiting, hoping, our desperate need to belong, and this alternative way of life we have chosen. About a God who is not too holy to show up in our life and world. A God who chooses messiness and makes it holy. A God who uses this holy messiness to open pathways and prepare the way for the world to experience joy, peace, and love.
In my book The Marks of Hope, I speak about the Spanish meaning of the word esperanza (hope), a state of waiting. It is an active posture, a state of being as we walk, live, work, and play. It is a decision we make to mark time differently, to pay attention, to practice belonging and with it the virtues of being beloved, of being community.
This new beginning, this advent, always comes when we most need it. It changes our perspective on the many other junctures in life. It has the power to transform us if we let it. People of God, take a deep breath, pay attention, look around, and listen to the longing of your soul. That longing will be fulfilled! A new beginning is coming to you and to the world, can you perceive it?
I cannot wait, so I join the ancients in saying, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! O Come, O Come, God with Us! Free us O God, for we mourn our separation from you and one another, but we know that you are on the way, so we rejoice, that you will come, to remind us that we belong, that we are not alone, that we can begin again!