By adwoa Lewis-Wilson
The following article is an excerpt from A Season of Faith, Beauty, and Hope, a collection of Advent devotions from the voices of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Brattleboro, Vermont. Download the free eBook here. And be sure to check the Diocesan Calendar for Advent activities across the diocese.
Advent is an immensely evocative season in our Faith and for Time itself. On the one hand, it is our New Year – we open our hearts in the darkening season to the coming of the Light. In this hemisphere’s harsh cold, we await a gentle infant to warm our hearts. God comes and dwells on earth, a hopeful beginning. On the other hand, it is also an awe-full end. God will come again to the earth and we await that second unequivocal Advent – the glorious end of a long-arc that started from before time began, promising to bring into submission all ‘powers’ of darkness and to set us free. In Advent we sit stretched between the poles of a dual hope.
But to say this as a people of sacrament – people who re-member Christ by each practice of prayer, fellowship, service, or worship – we must recognize that Advent is not just the hope but the actual manifestation of Christ’s first coming as well as the actual restoration of all in the second coming of the Risen One, albeit under a veil. “Faith is the substance of the thing it hopes for,” says St. Paul.
Of course, even to say this pushes us further along an edge, does it not? For God’s Advent on earth is continuous. God breathed a long sigh and spoke the contours of divinity into the form of Creation. God breathed another sigh into formed dust, and humanity took the divine image in a particular way. As God has breathed into prophets, poets, wombs, and martyrs, God has continually come to dwell among us. And God continually will, world without end.
between ‘first’ and ‘consummate’ coming, Advent is nothing less than the
collapse of eternity into the present moment and our consent to be watchful for the truth that the Divine coming
is constant in every moment of life,
or Life simply would not Be. Laurence Hull Stookey gives a beautiful analogy of
this concept in the image of a woven tapestry. What we see hanging on the wall
is indeed a masterpiece. But, if we are clever enough to turn it over, we see
the myriad threads, invisible on the front, where the thread touched the cloth
in order to make the image that we actually see. As we settle into Advent
awaiting – no, let us say ‘expecting’ for this latter has potential energy that
itself participates in the
gestation of what is to come – may we take the time not only to be watchful for the patterns in the tapestry’s image but also to turn it over. Turn ourselves over in order to notice, reverence, and give thanks for the countless unseen strands that God has woven on the underside of our own lives, our collective history, and our seasons of darkness. May this Season scandalize us awake to the One who was, AND IS, and is to come. Emmanuel.