Never before in my life, have I personally witnessed so much despair in the lives of so many people. The economy has been depressed and depressing for five long years now. It seems so many wonderful people are struggling on a daily basis to keep their head above water. Most are struggling. Many are stumbling. Collectively, we are surviving but few could honestly say they are thriving. We are still in a war. Politics offers few answers and little hope. And then there’s the church which pretends as if nothing is really wrong and holds to sameness, gripping its collective fear of change and moving ever so close to the cliff of no return.
Five years ago this week I led a retreat for white collar workers in Denver. I asked the question, “How many of you are living with more fear in your life than at any other time?” Every hand was raised. Today, as I travel, speak and work one on one with leaders both in the market place and the ministry, fear is the predominate descriptor of emotion that most people I work with are expressing. Truly, we are living in a most sobering time–a season calling for deep searching and few answers. It doesn’t matter if we are white collar or blue. Democrat or Republican– American or African—we are quivering in our boots in an unparalleled season of floundering without breakthrough and endurance rather than hope.
Allow me to be honest and transparent. All of this takes a tremendous toil on a small ministry where we seek to raise our support year after year to be a resource to leaders both in the business world and ministry sphere who themselves are struggling. I have my own questions. Can we survive? Will we make it? Is there something–anything I can possibly do that would help?
We are in “it” together. We are waiting for a better time. We are hoping to turn the corner to a time when so much struggling, work and effort to stay alive, sustain our lives and experience a fulfillment of a dream, a hope and a vision.
Friends, this is precisely what “ADVENT” is all about. Advent is a season of expectant waiting for something to happen that will turn the table and improve our most desperate situation. Most followers of Jesus wrongly assume that being saved is a once in a life-time event. But life teaches us that we need to be saved from MORE than just our sins. We need to be saved from despair. We need to be saved from coming unglued. We need to be saved from merely surviving to experiencing a robust sanity in life.
The coming four weeks of Advent are weeks to move away from the commercialization and sick emphasis on materialism as the answer to our dilemma. Advent is the intentional waiting on God to show up and do something about our sick condition. Many followers of Jesus are unaware of the practice of Advent. We’re throw the baby of this important season out with the water to be relevant and “seeker friendly.” In doing so, we have found ourselves more caught up than ever before in Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Depressing December year-ends.
Returning to Advent is the beginning of a new way to look at life. Take each week and simply light a candle each Sunday marking the long, awaited wait for the Day that God will finally appear. Each week, watch your mantel, coffee table or dining table grow brighter and brighter with light. Isn’t that what we want—more light; more hope; more progress. The candles of Advent literally show us the way forward through the long, dismal season of darkness. Here’s a link to one of the best resources I am aware of that helps us embrace not scorn this important season: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/
If you find yourself nodding your head in agreement to what I have written here, you are not alone. Read my opening sentence again. Many of us are struggling. Advent is an important part of the answer. Let me encourage you to consider the practice of having a small advent wreath in your home or use an Advent calendar—perhaps even before you decorate a Christmas Tree. I believe movement in a spiritual direction will help. The Bible simply says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
This season, make daily efforts to mark this season different from other ones. Be with friends. Choose to attend services where Advent is practiced and learn something. Perhaps, it’s not about finding a new church but finding a new way to worship God this season. Choose to live Advent and turn the despair from disillusionment to hope. Hope in God to turn our ways to His ways.
Here’s my prayer everyday in this season of Advent waiting:
“Lord, Help me to receive what you give, release what you take, lack what you withhold, do what you require and be who you desire.”