A time of hope, expectation, longing. We think of Advent as the few weeks leading up to Christmas that are filled with holiday activities at church, with our families, and in the community. Decorations, carols, gift shopping, special gatherings, etc., etc., etc.
But for me, the sense of Advent as hope, expectation, and longing for God’s coming to our world is even more pronounced this year. And I wonder – is that sense of longing there for you, too? As we seek to balance church leadership roles with work, family responsibilities, personal goals, and all the things going on in the larger world that we can’t control? When I think of all this, I realize – we need Advent.
I need an Advent perspective because I’m concerned, frustrated, sometimes even depressed by a lot of things in our world today. Conflict, bitterness, erosion of values, and instability in our society, especially in the national political arena. Also in many communities and families. I even see it in our church at the general denomination level.
I need Advent – hope, expectation, longing for something better. Something that maybe only God can do (because people don’t seem to be able to). I also need Advent because I get tired of trying to do too much, to be at all the places and see all the people I need to for work, church, family, etc. Maybe you feel the same way at times. We all really do need Advent.
As I ponder this, I’m reminded of our Annual Conference theme last June. Remember? “Praying Hands and Dirty Fingernails.” You’ve read about it in a previous issue of this magazine, and probably also heard about it at your charge / cluster conference this fall. It’s a “both–and” concept that expresses our perspective as Methodists in the Wesleyan tradition. It’s not a pious “pray and let God make things better.” Nor is it an exhausting “you can do it – just keep on working.” No, it’s faith combined with works. Seeking God’s active presence and doing what we can about what’s in front of us.
So now, as I end the year 2013 with Advent and Christmas, my heart-felt longing, expectation, and hope – my Advent – can provide a better perspective for things to come. Seeking God’s presence, then doing what I can with the gifts and resources provided, and trusting God with the rest. Assured that God will be there, the kingdom will prevail, and I need not fear. Praying hands and dirty fingernails. Much better than worry and frustration!
Finally, as we finish the year I’m reminded that the Advent season is also a time of transition in many congregations’ laity leadership. Thanks to all of you who will be transitioning out of a leadership role. And thanks to you who are saying “yes”, stepping in or continuing important leadership roles for the transformational mission of leading people to actively follow Jesus Christ. Let’s keep that Advent hope, seeking God’s presence as we do what we can and trust God with the rest.