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starting in darkness

advent is quickly approaching. this sunday will be the first week of the season of waiting. now i understand that we still have thanksgiving yet, and believe me, i will be thoroughly enjoying the day of gratitude and time with my family, but as a pastor i have to be planning for sunday, so my thoughts today are on advent.
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i love advent. not because i love waiting so much as that it seems to stir in me some connection to the ancients: i feel a kinship with generations long gone who clung to their hope. for me, that's what advent is about finally: hope. in a very basic and literal way its about waiting for a messiah, and in an even more basic and literal way its about waiting through a pregnancy for the birth of a baby; but in a more metaphorical way, advent, for me, is the place of our hearts where we long for light to enter darkness, redemption to replace brokenness, and life to emerge, even if kicking and screaming, if for no other reason than to send death running off with its tail tucked between its legs.
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advent, of course, doesn't really start in the light. it begins in the darkness, when death (who you might also know as despair or fear or lonliness or some other cursed name) is your close companion. and then, in a moment of genius, or desperation, or foolishness, you give birth to some hopeful thought, some ember of warmth in your tired heart, some speck of light, and you pray some form of the advent prayer: come, lord jesus! come!
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maybe you just barely whisper it. or maybe you weep it. or shout it into the dark pit of the mercilessly cold dark sky. maybe you deliver it like a baby, with labored pain and risk. maybe you half chuckle at yourself as you say it, surprised by your audacity. maybe you can barely cough it out. but somehow, someway, you do. right there in the midst of your pain; in your moment or season of darkness or grief or shame or fear or whatever you call it, you dare to speak out into the darkness and give messy birth to words and warmth and light and hope: come lord jesus. come.
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and that is advent.

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