New York Times op-ed: by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life (Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year)):
I am particularly grateful for the practice of Advent this year, a penitential season that began last Sunday. It is a time of spiritual and emotional preparation before the celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas.
I am not ready for Christmas yet. I cannot force myself to barrel into festivities and holiday cheer. I need to take a minute. I need a season to notice, reflect on and grieve what we collectively and I individually have walked through this year (and the past few years, really). I need to take stock of where I am and how I got here.
Advent is a season of hope, and part of practicing hope is noticing where we need it. In church, congregants sing a well-known Advent hymn that begins, “O come, o come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.” We recall that we require ransom and rescue. Another year has gone by and we still live in a world in need of mending. We have learned anew through these long years that a virus can suddenly change our lives, that our illusions of control and predictability are fragile and faulty, that lies are often mistaken as truth, that we cannot keep ourselves or those we love from pain, that the wreckage of poverty, injustice and darkness persist. This is the very world of heartbreak, Christians say each year, into which Christ came and will come again. ...
“Advent” means arrival or “coming.” In this season, the Christian liturgy asks us to imaginatively wait for the first coming of Christ at Christmas and for his promised future return (which is sometimes called the Second Coming). But we also wait for the coming of Christ in our own small lives. The church marks out this season for reflection, repentance and stillness not only because life is worth paying attention to (which it is), but also because the hope of Christmas cannot simply be a theoretical hope for a theoretical life. We walk into the Christmas season bringing with us all the particular days, minutes, struggles and laughter of this year.
So before we sing “Joy to the World,” before we pop open the bubbly, before we ring bells and open gifts on Christmas morning, we recall the actual and ordinary ways we need God’s blessings to “flow far as the curse is found.” We recall how we await the coming of Christ in the specific pain, disappointments, losses, relationships, work, needs and joys of this very moment in our lives.
To that end, I want to offer some ways to help embrace reflection and recollection. ...
Other New York Times op-eds by Tish Harrison Warren: