A few years ago, comedian Louis CK performed a hilarious cultural critique called “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” His general premise was that contemporary Americans enjoy luxuries and technological advancements unprecedented in the history of the world, yet far from enjoying these amenities, we spend most of our time complaining about them. To illustrate his point, CK talked about our frustration with phones when they drop calls or take a few moments to connect. He impersonated a twenty-something staring angrily at their device, screaming aloud, “It won’t…It won’t…UGH!”
“GIVE IT A SECOND!” CK responds, “IT’S GOING TO SPACE! GIVE IT A SECOND TO GET BACK FROM SPACE!”
CK’s monologue is hilarious because we all know how true it is. We’ve all experienced frustration or even rage at things that make life SO MUCH MORE CONVENIENT for us today than it was for people 100+ years ago. Ever been annoyed when your wifi goes out at a coffee shop or in your home? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about! We’ve grown accustomed to everything working for us instantly. So much so, that when it doesn’t, we feel that the universe has offended against us.
Perhaps this is why so many of us find the idea of relating to God so frustrating, anger-inducing, uncomfortable, or weird. God, if we even think He exists, is rarely experienced by any of us as convenient or instantly and always giving us what we want. When this looks like God failing to help us win the lottery, that’s an offense of His that most of us are willing to get over. But when it comes to our angry, lonely, suicidal, rubber-bullet-on-refugee firing, school-shooting-up, opioid-addicted, hate-crime-committing world, the fact that God doesn’t seem to be doing anything to actively fix these matters when He’s supposed to be both good AND all-powerful, is usually enough to make us either not believe in Him or hate His guts.
And these reactions are only felt by the most honest and reflective of us. More often today, we don’t spend enough time sitting with our painful emotions to even KNOW what we’re feeling, why we’re feeling it, and who we’re blaming. Instead, we resort to entertainment, addictions, or distractions: anything we can turn to that’s loud enough to pull our attention away from the deepest darkest things that are robbing our joy, fueling our anxiety, and causing us to doubt—if we’re honest—that life is really worth living.
This is why we NEED Advent.
Advent is the first season in the Christian church calendar. It is the approximately 4-week-long season leading up to Christmas, during which Christians throughout history have made space in their lives to attend to their own hearts, and to acknowledge where they are frustrated, discouraged, and painfully WAITING for God to show up and do something in their lives. It is also the space where Christians throughout history have re-anchored their lives in the great story of the God revealed in Jesus Christ: the God who once came into our world as a fragile Middle-Eastern baby, who was crucified, and who, Christians believe rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will one day RETURN to end pain and suffering, destroy death, establish complete justice, and wipe every tear from every eye. For these reasons, Advent is also a season of hope. To us, a people who live in a land of deep darkness, light has shined, it is shining, and in Jesus, one day, it will WIN. Advent reminds us that the hope extended to our world is that in Jesus, we are waiting on something better than just good immigration laws or gun violence mitigation strategies (though working toward these things is good and important). We are waiting on the total healing and transformation of our world. In this story and with this God, we have space to honestly name and forcefully express all of our sorrow and anguish. And then we are invited to spend time with a God who hears us and promises that He will one day make all of these things well. Jesus came into our world once as a man so He could fully understand what we feel when we suffer, and He will come back into the world with power strong enough to end all suffering and dispel all darkness.
Black Friday and the Holiday Season commercial machine teaches us to ignore and RUN from our pain, to feast on the cotton candy of nostalgia. But the best that all of this can offer is false hope that will, in the end, leave us empty. Jesus, the real Christmas story, and the journey of Advent invite us not to RUN, but to WAIT: to sit with God’s people throughout history as we have all waited on the healing of our hearts and the fixing of our world. To recognize the depth of our need, and to feast on the presence of the only ONE who can meet us in our darkness and do something about it.
This year, don’t run from your pain. Don’t bury your hope. WAIT. Wait with the people of God for healing and transformation. Make space to hear the story of God, the promises of Jesus, the hope of the Gospel. Feast on the One who is real, who can satisfy you, who can give you light to dispel the darkness.
New to Advent? Looking for a community to enter into this special season with? We’d love to invite you to join us at The Mission Cincinnati for any of our worship services, every Sunday from now through December 23rd at 10 AM at the Evanston Recreation Center (3204 Woodburn Ave. Cincinnati OH 45207). Every service will include beautiful music, passionate singing, space for prayer and reflection, inspirational teaching from the Bible, and a celebration of communion. We have a nursery for infants and toddlers and a Mission Kids ministry for children ages 4-10 featuring The Gospel Project curriculum. We will also have two contemplative Mission Communities hosted by Rev. Kristen Yates in her home on Sunday afternoons at 4 PM (12/2 & 12/16) and every Wednesday evening at 6:30 PM. You can contact Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org for address info if you’d like to attend. These spaces will offer yummy snacks, silence, contemplative prayer, and a chance to meet other folks on a spiritual journey.
We can’t wait to meet you this season! Praying that you would experience the fullness of Christ’s presence, power, and love in these days!
Grace, peace, and blessings from our team here at The Mission Cincinnati as we wait on the world to change together!