And in the midst of all this stress and anxiety and despair, we come hurtling headlong into Advent. Oh yeah. Advent. That season of … HOPE. And PEACE. And JOY. All the bright and shiny feelings, warming our hearts and souls like the bright and shiny ornaments adorning our homes.
Without the poor widow, we risk hearing Jesus’ declaration in Mark 13 as just another threat barked out by an angry man. With her, the apocalypse carries hope for life beyond the way it’s always been. Advent invites us to find hope in apocalypse that makes room for the widow to live.
This year, though, it strikes me that the Magus’ response to the Epiphany of Christ is similar to the way in which most people of privilege respond to the recognition that their privilege will not or even cannot continue: with grief.
Like many traditions, the broadcast of the service of lessons and carols is a blend of old and new. The liturgy and choice of readings remain the same, and after more than two decades of tuning in, I am starting to recognize choral pieces that have made multiple appearances…Other elements of the listening experience have changed — we now stream the broadcast online, and have been known to text other family members as we listen “together.”
Bearing witness to the promise of God as the landscape shifts all around you. That sounds a bit like Advent. For still, a voice cries in the wilderness. And still, a people who walked in darkness have seen great light.
I know for myself that far too often during this Advent and Christmas season, I can and do feel like a desert. I get tired, depleted, and worn down from all of the things that have to get done. But the season itself is a season full of hope and expectancy.
The truth is, though, that there is no way three years of study can help us to gain even rudimentary exposure to the biblical knowledge, theological skill, questions of pastoral presence, and leadership ability needed to navigate this lifelong calling. In fact, most of those experiences that seminary did not train us for are only learned in the daily practice of ministry in the Church.
As mom of a toddler and as pastor, I don’t get to travel to as many conferences as I’d like. It is important to me that a conference be easily accessible, cost effective, and worth the precious time away from home and office. Trent@Montreat fits squarely into these three categories and I strongly urge you to look at this excellent opportunity.
I came away from the whole experience filled with new ideas for my ministry and for the church I currently serve. I came away so happy and encouraged to have colleagues working hard in their ministries. I came away renewed and excited about what God is doing through the church and in the world.
I have one year left of my seminary education; one year remaining in this bubble of intensive learning and then out into the wide world I’ll go. Again, I’ll find myself on the precipice of a big life moment, one where nothing is certain about what my life will look like.