Beangirl came home from school today, talking about the moment of silence they held for the people of Paris. Blue said he knew something terrible had happened, but he didn’t know what. Plum and I have been listening to French internet radio, and the playlists were filled with sad songs. I said something about it, the way you say something out loud to your toddler without really thinking about it. But he wanted to know why there were sad songs, so I stumbled on and said that the people on the radio were sad because their friends had gone away.
But what could I say? I don’t have any answers.
So it will come just in time. It always does. But maybe this year more than most, in this moment more than most.
It isn’t the Christmas music we need, the bright lights and tinsel. Or the gift giving or the charity collections. It isn’t even the baking, all that celebration of life and love through food preparations – though maybe that helps a little.
It is the waiting season itself. It’s Advent. That’s what is necessary. We need to be reminded of the worth of waiting.
Because waiting sets us beside others who wait.
Waiting holds us still and reminds us to be compassionate.
We wait in vigil with a hurting world. Paris. Palmyra. Beirut. Baghdad.
We wait for Christ.
Often in Advent, we read Isaiah, but this year, the lectionary shifts the Advent focus to Jeremiah and the minor prophets. The words will be full of ancient promises spoken into the deepest longings of an exiled people. These will be good words to hear, I think. As we count the days to Christmas, we will be sitting with the promises of a righteous branch, a messenger, a return home, a shepherd of peace. Then, with these words in our ears, we will practice waiting.
But before the waiting starts, we can celebrate the end. The Kingdom of God can be an upside-down and paradoxical place, and, beautifully, the Church often follows, dancing. So this coming Sunday is New Year’s in our lectionary calendar. It is the end of one cycle and the start of another, and we mark that change by celebrating the feast of Christ the King. It`s quite a new feast, by church standards. It started part way through the last century as a way of contradicting rising nationalism and emphasizing our deeper sense of loyalty. For the first few decades, it was celebrated closer to All Saints Day, perhaps linking the idea of our identity with the authority of Christ. But since the 1960s, it has been celebrated as the last Sunday in the liturgical year. An Amen kind of Sunday before the new year starts.
Our song is subversive, disruptive even. By calling Christ the ruler of the kings of the earth, we not only challenge the ways of the world, we contextualize all ideas of human might, and even the brutal finality of human violence. Today, we may mourn the events of the past. We may be uncertain how to describe our troubled present. We may grapple with fear for the future. But we will celebrate the kingship of Christ. Let’s be still and listen for his ever-ancient, ever-immediate calling. Let`s hold tightly to the knowledge and the mystery that Christ is king and find the courage to begin a new cycle. Let’s step slowly into a new and needed Advent, his own waiting season, waiting for the birth of Emmanuel, God among us.