This year, the begins with Mark 13:24-37. The writer illustrates a season “after the suffering” and the call to look to the coming of the Human One and those gathered for life lived in the liberation they have longed for so long. Smack in the middle, Mark includes Jesus’ reference to the “tender branch” of a fig tree that sprouts leaves and points to a new season of life and good fruit to be born.
After the suffering and in the tenderness of creation, Mark beckons us, look for signs of life. Jesus, moments later, calls the disciples to remain vigilant and keep alert to this work (gregorēite /γρηγορεῖτε in Greek). As many know, the variation of my name is inked on my right forearm. A tender spot forever marked as a call for vigilance and to remain awake and full of hope.
In 2020, the four-week liturgical season of Advent meets us with a layer of pastoral insensitivity. We have already been waiting for so much- relief from the pandemic, justice in the midst of pervasive racism, economic equity, tempering of partisan divisions and hostility, end to virtual learning for our kiddos, and the ability to see, embrace, and safely share airspace with family and friends, neighbors and coworkers. We are ready for Christmas, yes. Twenty-eight days of lingering in hope delayed may be as appetizing as that casserole that shows up every Thanksgiving and yet goes unconsumed. Life may feel too tender, as in wounded, for Advent.
Yet the pilgrimage cannot be evaded. We cannot merely jump from ordinary time to without the weekly waiting for Christ’s coming. We cannot fast track the deliverance found in the manger. But we can allow Advent to draw us closer to the tenderness of life for which we long, to hold space for gentle illuminations of hope, peace, joy, and love. We can remain vigilant and awake, eyes wide-open to signs of this goodness budding in the most tender of people and places, assured just as Christ came after and in the middle of the suffering of ages past, Christ will come and is already with us in the midst of our own.
Where do you see this Adventing of Christ? I am finding it in some of the most tender and tiny of hands.
Check out the calendar of words for sacred imaging through AdventWord.