Advent has been my favorite liturgical season for some time, even if my understanding has continued to grow and change over time. Yet I still have two main struggles with Advent.
First, it is counter-cultural if not downright counterintuitive to fit in the practices of Advent during a season that floats between Thanksgiving and Christmas: a consumer-driven, maddening time of year.
Secondly, I struggle with the themes of Advent most traditionally observed in mainline Protestantism: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
There is something strange about the transition between Hope and Peace. It is stark in the lectionary readings.
Even for those of us who don’t formally celebrate Advent, how often do we see Christmas cards that include all four elements? Believe me, I’ve looked. We are far more fond of the latter three: Peace, Joy, and Love. So how do we then get from Hope to Peace?
This week, the observation of Week 2 of Advent, the second purple or blue candle of Peace is lit. My family is bumbling our way through some Advent readings and the lighting of the candles. My eldest son is most attuned toward the chocolate that comes with it. I did not have the time nor the energy this year to buy the set of four Advent candles: three purple, and one pink.
We might have missed my favorite family tradition altogether if it had not been for four barely used candles still in the box with the wreath from last year. It was a reminder that last year had been a hard one too. It stung a little, but hey, at least I had four candles and a plan! If I worked my way backward, Love (the fourth candle) could go first since it had the most left to burn, then Joy as the pink candle, then the next biggest etc. We should make it through the season with the recycled candles.
The plan seemed perfect until I noticed my Hope candle had given way to the Texas heat in my shed and was decidedly crooked.
Great. Crooked hope. Ironic. Cruel. Just what I get.
No, wait. It’s perfect.
Crooked is defined as “bent or twisted out of shape or out of place.” It almost seems redundant. You might as well just say hope. Hope that bends toward Peace.
Peace comes after this “crooked” hope. How do we take in and accept this shift?
Like quiet when you didn’t know it had been too loud
Or the movement free of pain that only in that freedom is revealed The depth in which there had been pain at all And maybe neither is a total void
but a such a decrease that it allows a
Peace then may be
The pause allowed
The breath given Created in the brief absence of chaos The deep, cleansing breath
Be Still and Know that I am God
Be Still and Know that I Am
Be Still and Know
PEACE is mindfulness
Mindful of the good
Mindful of the ground
As long as this Earth is where we reside,
Peace then will continue to be the opening up of ourselves to be willing to
Sit in the pauses
Though they are jarring
Like a baby born under the stress of government-mandated travel, away from home to a poor couple in a manager only to flee again from the town where they would be strangers to a country where they would be even stranger
And that is such a crooked hope
But it is in its jarring injustices that requires so much hope
It is the pause when you do get through and it makes no sense that
I believe we know in our waiting, our Advent waiting, we’ve found
The 1,2,3,4 inhale
Now we can keep moving.