I’ve been writing these little daily posts during Advent and Lent for several seasons now. I decided I wouldn’t do it this year: too much trauma to process, too little grip on the overflowing chaos of the world to feel like anything I have to say is worth sharing. Plus, who even writes BLOGS anymore? If I wanted to be relevant and accessible, I’d be making TikTok Advent reflections, right?
Mostly, it has felt like my ability to make connections and see patterns and understand what is happening under the surface of things has disappeared. That part of me feels burnt out, oversaturated. The breaker got overloaded and flipped off, and I can’t seem to figure out how to flip it back. My brain is stuttering, stopping and starting, and it is hard to know where to look for verified information or trustworthy perspective. I don’t want to blather on out here in public about things I’m not yet certain about – things I am not even reasonably sure of. We’re just all here in the mud and the muck of it, together.
But I woke up this morning, on the first day of Advent, and read the first page of a devotional and finished the last paragraph of my sermon, and realized that a) I had something to say and b) I still can’t convince myself to join TikTok.
Advent always starts with apocalypse. If you haven’t heard by now, “apocalypse” doesn’t mean “utter destruction,” it means “revelation.” This year, we get the “little apocalypse” from Luke’s gospel:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Jesus says that when chaos begins to reign, the thing to do is not RUN AND HIDE. It is not TAKE COVER. We are not advised to run to the prepared bunker we’ve been working on outfitting these last 20 months, or grab the arsenal of machine guns we’ve been stockpiling. We are not instructed to hold fast to what we’ve got – whether it be money or houses or privilege or power – and go down fighting.
When chaos begins to reign, when people are fainting from fear and foreboding, when institutions break down and the old order begins to defend itself by any means necessary, when there is distress among the nations because new variants keep emerging and the only possible solution powerful leaders can imagine is to further isolate ourselves from one another even though viruses do not give one shit about international borders or locked down airports, when politicians are issuing death threats agains their colleagues, when global supply chains get stopped up and teachers can’t bear to face their classrooms one more day and nurses are so overburdened and burnt out that they are walking off the job and children get hurt by ricocheting bullets from gang fights in the mall, when the community that taught you how to live a good life starts turning against you, issuing threats and lining up behind abusers because they think that will keep them safe, when money becomes a problem instead of an opportunity, when grief arrives in wave after wave and just keeps coming, when everyone around you seems to be reeling from one trauma or another and everything – everything – feels tenuous and unsteady…
Don’t curl up in a ball. Don’t shut down. Don’t stick your head in the sand or get lost on Instagram.
Instead, Jesus offers another possible chaos response:
Stand up. Raise your head. PAY ATTENTION. It might not make any sense at all, but redemption is – apparently – drawing near.
I’m going to try it, this paying attention thing. You are welcome to come along.