What a beautiful, enchanting season we’re in. (Advent, that is.)

I’m sure many of you have already sent out your highly-anticipated Advent cards, and received some from friends. You’ve probably heard more than once the classic “We Wish You A Merry Advent” ringing out.
No? Yeah, the season of #Advent takes a major backseat to its substantially more popular cousin, Christmas - sadly, even in Christian communities themselves.
Advent stories don’t really roll off the tongue. It’s a far cry from Linus standing alone on a stage, reciting from memory in good, ole-fashioned King James English.
No, we have stories with weird lists of caesars and famous religious leaders to underscore the fact that the Word of God came to none of them — bypassing silk-laden halls of power for a dumpster behind the 7Eleven (Luke 3:1-6).
Let’s be honest: stories like these are not things we especially like to hear in the midst of “December-to-Remember” sales events and special Christmas bargains, one-of-a-kind with low-low prices.
There’s…just…something about the season of Advent that makes me stop in my tracks.
I wonder if it’s our heightened Christmas season that continues to erode our full appreciation of the incredible time immersed in the radical act of *waiting expectantly*

that we call Advent.
One of our great-great-grandpas in the faith, Martin Luther, described Advent with a curious metaphor - that of canaries in a deep, dark mine, waiting to see if light, any light, would come from above.

#StirUpYourPower, Lord Christ, and…
We sit here…and we wait.

But we don’t wait because we’re bored, or have nothing better to do. We’re not sitting in the theological waiting room. We wait expectantly. It’s a wait full of hope, even though our world might look or seem thoroughly hopeless
Frederick Buechner describes Advent this way:

“The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin b​ows are poised. The conductor has raised the baton.
"In the silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen.
"You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you've never been and a time you have no words for.
"You are aware of the beating of your heart.

The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
"The...Santa Claus clangs his bell. The sidewalks are so crowded you can hardly move. Exhaust fumes are the chief fragrance in the air, and everybody is as bundled up against any sense of what all the fuss is really about as they are bundled up against the windchill factor.
"But if you concentrate just for an instant, far off in the deeps of yourself somewhere you can feel the beating of your heart. For all its madness and lostness, not to mention your own, you can hear the world itself holding its breath.”
We don’t really like holding our breath. We want things right now. We don’t want Christmas on December 25. We expect it to start in mid-October, or in the darkness as we line up for the Black Friday deals.
In fact, we generally like our Christmas season to be quite *unlike* the Christian stories themselves.
I've been asked to tell the "Christmas story" in different communities this month, and I always say, "Which one?

The one with the unwed pregnant teenager, the forced registration, and the homeless shepherds? Or the one with the refugee Jesus escaping a mass genocide?”
Yea…..our Christmas culture doesn’t really want Christmas stories, does it?
We pontificate about there being "no room" for Mary and Joseph and their newborn son, yet routinely support policies that don’t seem to care at all about those who go to bed each night without a home (in the richest country in the history of history).
We listen to and sing O Little Town of Bethlehem while refusing to recognize that present-day Bethlehem is caught behind a wall built by fear and militarized oppression (bought and paid for by the U.S. of A.).
We gaze piously at nativity scenes and then allow people to grab our nation's microphones and demonize the very refugees that Jesus and his family most resembled.
We throw them in cages, all the while performatively worrying about our "safety” w/o understanding that Jesus came into this world constantly repeating a single refrain, one he picked up from Hebrew prophets and the very Creator of the world: don’t.be.afraid.
We hear Mary's Magnificat from Luke's Gospel, her pregnant song, and refuse to acknowledge that this melody is not only downright subversive; it's borderline criminal.
It's rooted in the divine cause for liberation that we often shun or deride as unpatriotic, socialist, whatever — “...the poor are filled with good things, and the rich have been sent away empty; the mighty and powerful have been CAST DOWN FROM THEIR THRONES.”
It’s in the midst of this season that, if we listen closely, we might hear that crazed cousin of Jesus, John, screaming out in the wilderness: “All flesh will see the salvation of God!”
We might even hear John’s predecessor, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, crying out in the city: “Tear open the heavens, Lord God, and come down.”
Another ancestor in the faith — not Martin Luther, although named after him — Martin Luther King, Jr., once asked the quintessential Advent question…and then immediately answered it.
“How long? Not long! Because you reap what you sow.”
“How long? Not long! Because the arc of the moral universe is long…but it bends towards justice.”
“How long? Not long!”

It can feel like forever, waiting in the darkness, wondering if justice will ever be done on earth as it is in heaven, hoping that our loved ones who have died have found a measure of peace…hoping that we who are left here can find that same peace, and remain connected to them…
It can feel like forever, searching for hope in the hospital bed, or looking for justice through tear gas, or gasping for love in a hate-filled world.
But we don’t search alone.
Dr. King asked us how long. I believe it’s our responsibility and duty as Christians, as followers of Jesus in the season of Advent, to respond, “Not long.”

…not long.
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