We live in anxious times. Individually and collectively, many of us struggle with anxiety, socially, economically, politically, and yes, even ecclesiastically (the church’s future). Anxiety is the produced experience of living in times of uncertainty, lack of control, and unpredictability. Anxiety is an emotional burden and exhaustion, a feeling, whether rational or irrational, and one that impacts our bodies, relationships, and overall personal mental health, and well-being.
In this season of Advent, we are invited to practice a balancing act, a move from anxiety to anticipation.
Not easy. The two are seemingly contradictory, and perhaps they are. So what kind of invitation is it that anticipation even helps to mitigate the challenges of anxious systems? At root, it is an invitation to trust in a future coming not of our own creation.
How we wait matters, that is, what we do while we wait matters. For us, as people of faith, we wait by listening, by making room for a Word to be spoken and embodied among us. We wait for an emerging future in Christ to come to us through the Holy Spirit. Our waiting, as has always been the case for people of faith, has been rooted in our practice of listening.
When we are baptized in Christ, it is proclaimed, “I baptize you, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Our first initiation into the life of the church comes communally as we anticipate these words spoken out loud for us to hear. They are words of Promise about how our lives are caught up in the life of Jesus. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into his death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Advent is a season of anticipation, of waiting and watching for the moments of life that God gives, a life received as gift, and not of our own creation.
One of the biggest adaptive challenges that communities of faith have to learn in these anxious times is living into this tension between what God is doing, and what we strive to do. God can be minimized or narrowly conceived as giving the people of God a spiritual laundry list of things to attend to while we wait. However, because Christ is a person and not a principle, we are to wait as if the person of Jesus continues to speak to us, and as if there are new things we need to hear that help us to repent just as much by our unlearning, as by our strategizing.
For sure moving from anxiety to anticipation will not be easy. It is, however, the central invitation and trust of the Advent season, and equally so, of the entire Christian journey.
May we lean into this new future with anticipatory expectation of new things to come, including the things that need to die in us so that new life in Christ might be born in our world. What anxiety is God calling you to let go of for a new future to be born?