People don't slow down much, but Advent is well worth the wait

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I crave Advent. Maybe it’s a midlife motivation. Or has this compulsion just gone unnoticed? I think not. More likely, I’ve been afraid to admit it. After all, it goes against the grain. Waiting, that is. No one waits for anything anymore. Life comes to us speedily, and the very notion of waiting seems barbaric. Besides, if I embrace Advent I’m sure to isolate myself … retreat from everything. It’s just barbaric. Like the ancients putting their farm tools away as they gave in to the change in seasons as the daylight grew shorter.

Mason  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Mason

The sun seemed to be taking leave, and these unenlightened ones grew fearful. So they hibernated. They waited. Disengaging themselves, they dared to become self-reflective. In the chill of those winter nights, they dared to see themselves, and time stood still. They told stories. They waited …expectantly. Craving the light, they removed the wheels from their carts, pulled evergreen branches from the trees heavy with snow and festooned the spokes of the wheels with flaming candles. Slowly, without anxiety or fear, it dawned upon them as they gazed upon these circles of light that the darkness was dissipating. Hope could be born.

So we come to the first Sunday of Advent in a series of four. In our warm and well lit sanctuaries someone stands and lights an evergreen wheel, and in fear and trembling invites us to slow down, to be quiet, to wait. “Where are the Christmas carols?” we ask. Advent is viewed as an assault upon Christmas.

We can’t wait and we won’t. Meanwhile, that which longs to be born in us needs to take its time. But no one has the time for such. Assaulted by commercials featuring kamikaze shoppers, we are seduced by the madness. We need and secretly crave to be quietened as Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist and the very Christ himself announce God’s reign over all the noise. But these intruders dare to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

The creative process for the artist is much like Advent. When I need a sojourn, I travel over to Milledgeville, Ga., and walk the grounds of Andalusia, the home of the writer Flannery O’Connor. The sense of place is so strong there like it is in her stories.

Her faith and her spiritual journey were generative of her art, and no one ever goes away from reading her without knowing it. A Prayer Journal written by the budding artist between 1946 and 1947 while she was a student far from Georgia at the University of Iowa allows us to glimpse in on the nativity of her art. Craving, she writes, “My dear God how stupid we people are until You give us something. Even in praying it is YOU who have to pray in us. I would like to write a beautiful prayer but I have nothing to do it from. There is a whole sensible world around me that I should be able to turn to your praise; but I cannot do it. Yet at some insipid moment when I may be possibly thinking of pigeon eggs, the opening of a beautiful prayer may come up from my subconscious and lead me to write something exalted.” Craving more elsewhere she writes, “I do not know you God, because I am in the way. Please help me push myself aside … Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon …”

It appears that I’m in excellent company. I’m not alone in my craving.

THE REV. BERNARD MASON IS A RETIRED SUPPLY PASTOR SERVING AT MANN MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.


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