I am so very unprepared for Advent.
It’s 11:51pm on Advent Sunday, I’m out of tea and I have four– no, five different websites crowding my tabs with Advent resources, stuffing bright faces and busy words through the gaps in my skull (also known as my eyes). I don’t know where to begin. I’m too scattered and frantic for this. There’s too little time. It’s like everybody except me has gotten ready for a party we’ve all been catapulted into, ready or not, time dragging us through daylight and evenings and the giddy whirl of a sun spinning like a top, paying no attention to whether we’d rather stop, breathe, take a moment to reflect.
Advent is, traditionally, a time to stop, breathe and take a moment to reflect on the once-and-future coming of Christ before Christmas actually happens. It’s 11:58pm on the first Sunday in Advent, and I’m running out of time to stop, let alone this breathing nonsense. Reflecting? Can you even do such a thing in a hurry? In a minute? In a minute it’ll be too late.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Holy Spirit. It’s 12:00am on the first of December and I’ve messed Advent up already. I’ve begun it all wrong. I’ve dropped my lamp and the oil’s spilled everywhere, if there was oil in it to begin with. 12:01am. O it’s the gnashing of teeth and the outer darkness for me, underdressed and giftless for the Christ-Child, locked out of the feast by bouncers with flaming swords.
Come Lord Jesus, even to us, the unprepared. The foolish. The tealess and the desperate, the constantly-failing and the stumbling-over-days, the people walking in darkness who have seen a great light and wonder blearily whether they’ve reached the drive-through for the nearest McDonalds. Advent is our season, in our desperation and longing, in our mess and our foolishness, in the empty lamps and the shut doors and the sickness, time used badly, life used badly, things begun wrong. We live in the space between leaving home and coming home, the threshholds where we wait and whine and batter against doors that won’t open and answers that don’t come, where we grieve and long and light candles and put them out again, throwing shadows across all the things we’ve broken.
Foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless, and it was for us and for this that you came to live among us, and for us and for this you will come again. And you sit with us even now in this season of unbearable groaning, in the voice and crying of your Spirit in the wilderness between then and now, between now and not yet, crying out with us and for us, hurting with a birth that is also our death. Come, Jesus. Come back soon. We prepare for your coming with grief and joy and impatience, with pain and with rejoicing, always at a loss, always on the wrong foot, always wanting. Never enough, never complete, and it is for us and for this that you came, and still come, and will come again in glory. The people living in darkness have seen a great light, and we who live in the valley of the shadow of death with our empty mugs and not-done laundry, dropped lamps and heretical metaphors, our bad beginnings and our worser endings- upon us, on us is the dawn.