Sunday was the first day of Advent- one of my favorite seasons in the Church calendar. Among other things, this means that we started singing carols at church. Sunday’s four Christmas songs at the early service opened the floodgates of holiday spirit for me…I caught myself humming “Silent Night” while weaving pinecones into a garland to hang on my mantle…Christmas has arrived!
Then I caught myself- Christmas actually has not arrived. It will not arrive until December 25th, and I want to be intentional this Advent to wait and watch for the coming of the Lord. It’s always difficult to be mindful, but when we are so steeped in tradition, it is easy to grow blind and deaf to what those traditions actually mean.
Take my hymn humming for example…Silent night, Holy night. If I am honest with myself, I hate silence. I spend a lot of my time escaping silence. Silence is painful, awkward, it can be depressing, and it is really easy to run away from. But silence, and waiting through silence, is what Advent is all about.
There is a time in Christian history called the Intertestamental Period- the time between the closing of the Old Testament from Malachi and the opening of the New Testament with John the Baptist. Most Protestant Biblical scholars believe that during these some 400 years, God did not speak to His people. There were no new prophets, and many refer to the time period as the 400 Years of Silence.
For 400 years Israel waited in silence…and it was not the peaceful silence that we might imagine in our carols. During that span Israel was conquered by the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, the Egyptian occupation, and, finally, the Roman Empire. The silence was painful, awkward at times, depressing at times, and I am sure they wanted to escape the silence.
But then, gloriously, the silence was broken by John the Baptist, yelling in the wilderness “Prepare Ye the way for the Lord”…
In this time of Advent, you may be waiting in silence…waiting for a job, for healing, for relationship, for family… but as painful as silence that can be, we know because of Advent that, in the fullness of time, God will break the silence with something Holy. Something beyond our wildest dreams and prayers.
We will be exploring the spirit Advent over the next few weeks – we would love for you to join us in our journey of watching and waiting.