One of my Street Hope friends asked me the other day, “What is this Advent stuff?” I grew up in a liturgical church and am quite surprised how the non-liturgical church world has embraced a notion of Advent. I asked my friend what his experience of, “this Advent stuff” was. He shared that it seemed to have something to do with Christmas because that was what was always talked about. This put me in the peculiar position of explaining and advocating for a view of Advent which is quite distinct from Christmas.
Advent has not always been a favourite season of mine. I remember choirs singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” in that mournful minor key and with that stilted rhythm and thinking “This is not very catchy.” I remember taking student out carolling in mid-December and being kicked off church steps because it was Advent. I asked the neighbouring Government office if we could sing there and they gave us permission. I often tell people I am one of the least religious people I know and Advent for some time was the least of the religious seasons with me.
That has changed! I explained to my friend the hope that is embodied in Advent. I have learned to mourn along with the mournful song. We chatted about all the wrong in the world: sickness, bigotry, poverty, hatred, fighting, fear, hunger. Our list went on and on and we did not begin to exhaust the evils. My friend talked about how depressed he was at Christmas. He misses his Mom and Dad. He can’t afford a gift for his daughter. Everyone seems to be so merry and he is just so sad in comparison.
It was then that I realized Advent had moved up to the top of my list, in terms of holidays. I explained that Advent looks around at the sin and sadness and sickness and mourns and longs for the time when all things will be made right! My friend’s countenance began to lift. His spirit began to rise with hope, the hope that is intrinsic to our understanding of Advent.
Advent is our season! It is the season for: the poor, the down-trodden, the broken and the hurting. It moans under the lash of the Pharaoh of this present age and longs for the coming of ‘Our Greater Moses’, the Lord Jesus! He is on our side and he will right all the wrongs.
So I have repented of my old smug attitude toward this season. I would only change one thing… instead of calling it Advent I think I would prefer Street Hope!
We are planning our Christmas breakfast again this year. We hope to go bigger with multiple sittings and a bus to pick up and drop off guests. The menu is Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage and toast. We also hope to have gift cards for all our guests. If you would like to help you can do so my contributing to Street Hope Saint John. See our web site at www.streethope.ca for further information.
May your Advent be blessed with sadness at the state of the present and an indomitable hope for the future. Even so come Lord Jesus!