Advent is here. If you look around, it may seem like Christmas showed up weeks ago, at least in stores and on the radio. But it isn’t Christmas yet. It is Advent. The season of waiting, of longing for something that is to come.
When I was a kid, there was nothing like the excitement in anticipation of Christmas morning. For this very reason, Christmas Eve was my favorite day of the year. When Christmas morning came, I opened my presents as slowly as possible to savor any remaining anticipation and make the moment last.
Today, Advent brings a more somber tone for me. I still am excited to watch my favorite Christmas movies and decorate the tree, but this season of waiting, anticipation, and longing can be helpful in a world where so much is wrong, a world where violence, injustice, despair, and anger are so prevalent. This first week of Advent, when many churches emphasize hope, is a reminder that no matter how hopeless things seem, or how far away our goals or dreams may be, we still hold to hope.
I can’t help but think of a scene from one of my Christmas favorites, Home Alone, when one of the main characters is stuck in an airport trying to get back to her son. She hits one dead end after another, and things are beyond frustrating, bordering on hopeless. Yet, she refuses to take no for an answer and says, “This is the season of perpetual hope!” Maybe you are discouraged, feeling like you will never reach the goals you have set for your health, or that addiction will always dominate your life. Maybe you fear that injustice, greed, and environmental degradation will always dominate the food system. Maybe you feel that disparities, including health disparities, will always remain, or that you will never get where you are trying to go.These obstacles and challenges can seem overwhelming and impossible. Sometimes progress is slow.
But Advent is a time when we wait, and wait with expectant hope. We long for things to be different, while doing what we can today, recognizing that we have to be patient. We cook that healthy meal when we would rather go to a drive through. We exercise when we don’t feel like we have the time or energy to do so. We put down the cigarette or go to a meeting. We work for healthy environments and we advocate for change. These are slow processes; we won’t see change overnight. Quick fixes, easy answers, fad diets — these don’t bring lasting change. We long for something more. So we remain faithful, and we wait.