I have yet to meet anyone who likes to wait. I usually stink at it, to tell you the truth.
But within the rhythm of the Christian year, Advent is the block of time leading up to Christmas given over to waiting. The practice is as countercultural as it comes. December’s secular Festivus frenzy, with its shoppingholidaypartiescookieexchangesconcertsdecoratingwrapping is an exhausting runup to December 25. Though some count down through their December with Santa-themed “Advent” calendars, a nod to the waiting for Christmas, this counting down has more to do with beating a deadline than it does with waiting.
The kind of Advent observed through church history is all about waiting. As a Jewish believer, I have wrestled more than you can imagine with the lopsided, invented rhythm of “The Christian Year” as I’ve compared it to the cycle of celebration God gave his children in Leviticus 23. That said, I value the practice of Advent. I need to be invited to be still, to feel the weight of the wait for my salvation, to renew hope, to contemplate the miracle and gift of God-becoming-baby.
My companion for this year’s December wait will be Enuma Okoro’s Silence and Other Surprising Invitiations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012)**. Okoro, a fellow contributor to Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog, has created 28 days of brief, rich meditations readers can use to reorient themselves. Week one’s meditations begin is a slightly non-traditional place – with John the Baptizer’s father, Zechariah. Themes of doubt and lament fill the week’s devotions. Week two moves readers to consider the lives of Zechariah and his aging, miraculously pregnant wife Elizabeth, as we ponder barrenness and our own hollow spaces. Elizabeth, Mary and John carry us through week three as we contemplate relationship and our own wait. Week four places that wait in the context of community. Small group questions and four corporate candle-lighting service suggestions round out the text.
How do we live in states of barrenness and still practice the devotion of Elizabeth? Amazingly, God works through many barren wombs in Scripture. Sarah has Isaac. Hannah has Samuel. Ruth has Obadiah. Elizabeth has John. From the wombs the world calls cursed, forgotten, and barren, God brings forth life used to save, heal, guide, and prepare others for the kingdom. Our own lives testify to the painful fact that barrenness is not always transformed this side of heaven. Sometimes the child is not born, the loneliness persists, the ache deepens. But we have stories that dare us to remember that God is able, that God is present, and that God is yet coming. We have the witness of scripture, but we also strain our ears to listen for similar stories within our own communities. Where is God breaking in now? Who among us has an unbelievable song to sing of God’s abundant provision? Who calls us to dare to hope?
I appreciate the way in which Okoro’s words speak right to my soul. I’ll wait with Silence beginning at the end of this month. Recommended.
** How unbiased can a review be when I know the author and received a comp copy from her publisher? I’ll leave that to you decide. As for me, I’m happy to share my thoughts about books I like a lot. I liked this book a lot.