by Intern Minister McKinley Sims.
Advent reminds me of a high school basketball tournament back home. I can still feel the excitement in the air. I can smell the expectation. I can taste the adrenaline-fueled energy of the inside of the basketball stadium as the electric heat amplified by each and every member of the 30,000+ people jammed into a single building. I’m sitting next to my brother, and we are as close to heaven as you can get. Two boys with nothing on our to-do lists except to watch basketball, talk to girls and eat fried food. We are surrounded by others, each one just as joyous and giddy as we are.
There are two sets of fans in the stadium for this tournament. There are the players’ families, friends and neighbors (sometimes entire towns leave their homes and travel to watch the boys play). Then there are the rest of us who sit in our seats and cheer when something neat happens … until a game is tied with less than a minute remaining. One side takes a shot, misses or turns it over, and the ball changes hands. Now the team with the ball can win the game and the championship. It all comes down to this. Someone is going to make a play. Someone is going to make it happen.
In that moment, as if by invisible command, the crowd collectively rises to its feet, accompanied by a jumbo-jet-like roar of expectant energy. We are one in that moment. Nerves stretch taught, vocal chords thrum incessantly, hands smash together in a never-ending symphony of pregnant emotion. Amid all this action, though, we are waiting. Waiting expectantly. Waiting for someone to make a play. Waiting for something to happen – the advent of what we came to see.
So what can our UU congregation take away from the Christian season of Advent? It’s more than just a reason to open up secret boxes of candy for 25 straight days, right? What does a season of waiting and expectation amid the busyness mean for us? Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I think that we can all understand the feeling of wading through the electricity in the air as holidays approach. For some it brings stress, for others joy. For many, though, it’s a season focused on the turn of the year and the view to come in 2017. We are waiting for something to happen, full of expectant energy bottled up from a long year of disappointment and falling short of our goals and hopes.
The payoff of Advent in the Christian tradition is the birth of Jesus, symbol of light and hope to downtrodden peoples. UUs can celebrate his birth as a prime example of life lived by the Seven Principles, or simply rejoice in the seasonal songs and carols of peace and goodwill toward humankind. We can focus on the turning of the solstice from darkening nights to strengthening of days, or the eight nights of Hanukkah reminding us of the importance of keeping a light burning amid times of trouble. We can burn Yule logs for our dearest wishes or read poetry on Yalda Night, the Persian festival of triumph of light over the darkness. All our traditions reflect this desire for a promise to be fulfilled and a new beginning for humanity. My spiritual desire is for the light to stay in our lives and for us to celebrate when it returns. I cheer the Nativity story, sing “Auld Lang Syne” at New Year’s and hope fervently for a 2017 of grace and peace.
So the question is what are you waiting for and what will you do when it arrives? Whether it’s Christmas Day, the longer days, the new year, a new job or a fresh start, we’re all waiting expectantly, for this is what we bought a ticket to see. My hope for you is that when whatever you’re waiting for finally arrives, you’ll respond as the angels do in the Scriptures: joyous singing, shouts of love to all around and proclamations of the return of the light to our darkened world. Happy Advent and Merry Everything!