Advent: What Lies Ahead

Advent: What Lies Ahead

In our culture’s mad rush to start the Christmas season, I am left feeling a bit Scrooge-like.  I like Advent.  The anticipation that gradually builds as candle after candle are lit on the Advent wreath adds to the beauty of Christmas when it finally arrives.  If we jump headlong into Christmas right after Thanksgiving, I believe we miss part of the joy of the season.  Waiting has a sweet longing to it and I want that sweetness for as long as I can have it.

As a child, I remember the eagerness as I would watch the presents beneath the tree grow as time passed.  My younger sister and I would check to find the ones with our names and then try to analyze what was inside.  It was tempting to tear the wrapping off, but we didn’t.  The soft, foldable presents were obviously clothes.  Yet the ones in boxes?  Those were unidentifiable.  We would give them a light shake and then simply wonder about what lay nestled inside for us to discover.  The waiting was half the fun.  Even if I wanted to figure out what the present was before Christmas (my competitive nature desired to win), I also wanted to be surprised.

I won’t argue that I’m extremely patient, however I appreciate waiting for something good.  When I get my mail, I am excited if I find a letter from a friend or a package that I ordered.  Yet I generally open the less fun things first, allowing the excitement and longing for the most desired thing to build.  After trick-or-treating at Halloween when I was a kid, I tried to eat my least favorite candies first, saving the best for last.  Even now, I often find myself saving a bite of the best part of the meal for the end, as if to end the meal on a good note.  Waiting doesn’t change the contents of the letter or the taste of the food, but it seems to add a bit of sweetness as I anticipate what is to come. Continue reading “Advent: What Lies Ahead”

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In the Waiting

The “crucify Him!” of Good Friday gives into the waiting of Holy Saturday.

I always find it difficult to speak those words.  Inwardly, I rebel.  I don’t want Him crucified, I don’t want to be one of the crowd yelling for the death of the One who loves me.  Yet what other role is there to play in the Passion narrative?  Peter denies Christ three times.  Judas betrays Christ for money.  Pilate is intrigued by Jesus yet still washes his hands of Jesus and hands Him over for death to appease the crowd.  The Pharisees rile the crowd and they yell for the death of Jesus.  In the words listed in the Passion narratives at Palm Sunday and Good Friday, there is no one to defend Jesus.  None speak on His behalf.  So I must cast my lot with the crowd and speak the words that I too often live out.

We suffer through the Passion with Jesus on Good Friday.  Not fully, of course, but we enter into it more.  We try to make it a reality, an event to experience today, not simply a fact of our faith.  At Good Friday service we reverence the cross.  I pictured myself at the foot of the cross, looking up at Christ.  At times I am clinging to the cross, kissing His feet.  Other times I am crumpled on the ground in agony.  Or I am embracing Mary, trying to understand her sorrow.  At one point I was Our Lady, cradling Jesus in my arms, my broken heart questioning why this must happen yet remaining steadfast in my hope.

He dies and is buried.  There is an emptiness I feel with all of this.  There is a strangeness in the tabernacle, open and empty.  There is a sense of deprivation.  I don’t understand what the apostles felt, but I catch a glimpse of it.

We enter then into the waiting of Holy Saturday. In a way, this is worse than Good Friday.  Good Friday involves action–we are walking with Jesus to the cross, we are watching Him be crucified, we are mourning Him and cradling Him in our arms.  But on Holy Saturday He is buried and He sleeps.  My soul is waiting for the “Alleluia” of Easter but it is not here yet.  I try to imagine the starkness of Holy Saturday for the apostles and Our Lady.  Jesus is dead and buried.  They do not understand that the Resurrection will take place.  Perhaps Holy Saturday is bleaker than Good Friday.  While yet alive, there was the hope that angels would come and rescue Him or that He would come off the cross of His own volition.  Holy Saturday is filled with memories of the Passion, reliving the moments when they betrayed the Christ, and wondering what the future holds.

Did that happen?  Did He truly die?  Is this how the story ends?  Did we follow this man for three years, see Him perform many wonders, listen with burning hearts to His words, only to see Him die the ignoble death of a criminal?  What is God’s next move?  Did evil really triumph?  Where is hope?

Easter Sunday cannot be understood yet.  It is beyond what they expect.  Living in the hours after the death of Jesus, they are wondering how life can ever be the same or even continue.  We can experience Holy Saturday in the same way, too.  Yes, we know the next step in this story: Christ rises from the dead.  Yet in our own lives, we do not know the next step.  We often experience a Good Friday and then think it ends with Holy Saturday.  It is difficult to wait.  It is difficult to be patient and to let God bring something gloriously beautiful and incomprehensible from the ruined ashes of our situation.

Between “Christ has died” and “Christ has risen” there is a tension.  Perhaps much of our life is spent in this tension of living between death and resurrection.  The waiting has a purpose though.  It is preparing us for the joy that is to come.  We simply need to have the patience to sit with Our Lord in the tomb.  He will rise–we know this truth.  In this moment, in this Holy Saturday of our lives, we need to wait in this moment of death, in this apparent loss of everything we hold dear, in this aching lack.  Christ is meeting us in this lack.  And He is preparing our hearts for the joy that He will pour into them.  The joy will be made all the more wonderful by the experience of the agony of waiting, suffering, and dying with Him.

Christ will rise.  For now, let us wait at the tomb with Him, deepening our desire for Him.  Let us wait in the tension that is bringing about our salvation.