It is the first Monday of November, and a mass shooting hovers over my monthly prayer retreat.
On the first Monday of October, another mass shooting hovered over that prayer retreat.
Are you as weary of the word, "another," as I am? Another unexplained barrage of gunfire. Another speeding vehicle driven into a crowd. Another ...
As news alerts of up-to-date articles kept my tablet pinging, I sat at the dining room table for another prayer retreat. Another time set aside to be with God, to hear from God, to speak with God. Advent nears, and amid the lament and mourning there are preparations to make for the beautiful season of preparation. I reluctantly switched my tablet from the news to music.
Normally, I put off listening to Advent and Christmas music until late November, and then I listen to my favorite albums non-stop until the Epiphany.
But today was different. I needed hope amid 'another.'
So I tapped on Josh Garrels' Advent/Christmas album, The Light Came Down, released a year ago. And I found myself being with God, hearing from God, and speaking with God in the weariness. I wanted to sing with the psalmist, "How long, O Lord?" Garrels' album, with lyrics bold enough to name darkness and to long for light, moved me from questions to pleas.
The seasons of the Christian year, like Advent, help bring us to order amid chaos. Every year we return to this season associated with waiting and expectancy to ready our hearts and homes for Christ's coming. But the coming we long for is not always for the baby in a manger. The Messiah for whom I long is the one who will turn weapons into plowshares. The Messiah for whom I wait will teach the wolf to play hopscotch with the lamb. The Messiah our world needs is the one who will gather us in peace after gunshots have scattered us into islands of fear.
Advent invites us to fight this urge to scatter to our individual rants on Twitter and posting on our individual timelines of Facebook. Some of Advent's and Christmas's most familiar songs, like "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "Angels We Have Heard On High," use not the first person singular but plural. "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" and "Hail to the Lord's Anointed" are commandments and declarations of what God has already done.
This Advent, let us prepare our hearts for the Messiah's second coming with corporate prayers for peace and justice. Let us dare to pray as a community with both words and actions of peacemaking. Let us not avoid the order of Church because we are lost in disorder. May the seasons of God's timing fill us with hope of eternity.
all good things to each of you,