Advent 2013 – 2 December

“The days are surely coming…

More than ten years ago, an oncoming train rammed my house. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The Church of the Extravagant Welcome stood in the middle of it all and then crossed to the other side of the road and continued on, leaving me as collateral damage. My support system was seriously compromised and did little to soften the blows as they landed: trauma upon trauma, death upon death, the work of emptying houses and packing up a heritage, and more acts of ministry than I have any ability to measure. While my inner world spun and swirled out of control, the world around me also endured two wars, unprecedented weather conditions, ponsi schemes and financial collapse, adolescent bickering in both houses of congress, and more acts of gun violence in schools, theaters, military bases and public places than I have any stomach to count. I don’t believe any particular event did me in, or that there even was a straw to break the camel’s back. More likely, it was the joint forces that drained my soul’s lifeblood. That, and my own need to keep on keeping on, hold things together and do what needed to be done. Eventually there was no pulse, no breath, no recognizable sign of life.

Not knowing what else to do, I stepped back to allow the ground time to lie fallow, to receive whatever drops of moisture might come my way. To let the past decompose and stew in the dark, until eventually particles of new, richer soil are ready to emerge. Letting go of the work, people and place that have given shape and meaning to my life, I headed west to a new and foreign land. Having put myself in this place, perhaps the greatest challenge has been to wait and trust, to live with the empty space and encompassing dark while holding fast to the confidence that something is at work. To hope, against all signs to the contrary, that new life awaits and transformation takes time.

I’ve been in this place more than ten months. While I do see and feel signs of movement, there are no indications that I am on the brink of birth. Yet I live in hope. And because it is familiar territory for me, I turn again to Advent. In the world of the Church, Advent is the beginning of a new year, refreshingly out of sync with the Gregorian calendar through which our western world keeps time. In the northern hemisphere, Advent is a season cloaked in darkness in which the Church strikes a light and watches for dawn; a time frozen in place into which a fragile new shoot of life wends its way; a place swarming with terrorist threats and military maneuvers through which a child leads a string of hokey pokey dancers on the way to peace. Advent is a time when I’ve learned to watch and wait for signs of God-with-Us, trusting that in the most unlikely, unpredictable, impractical of all times we can expect to see glimpses of God’s presence, if we will but keep awake.

In the days of Advent 2013, I will use the symbolism and readings of the season as a springboard from which to explore the glimmers of holiness that are visible from my vantage point. I do indeed believe the days of new life are coming, not necessarily by December 25 but when the time is ripe and full. Journey with me, if you are so inclined. Watch, if you will, not for what God is doing in my life but your own. I share the view from where I walk in the humble hope that it might offer some light for you.


    • Tim Wildman on December 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I have the sensation that the wait is finally over, and the time is at hand for the return of your voice, Alice! These words conjure emotions that, for me, comprise faith and hope. I was not surprised at the return of your voice – just glad, truly glad!

  1. Thanks, Tim! I’m using Advent a bit to push myself, but I do think I’m beginning to emerge from the silence. Your encouragement means more than you know!

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