Looking Back: The Advent Journey
by Sarah Fiske-Phillips, M.Div. student at Claremont School of Theology
(Previously Published on www.faith3.org – The Center for Faith and Service)
The Advent Workshop wore me down! Two volunteers backed out at the last minute, glitter ended up all over fellowship hall, and I didn’t win the chili cook-off! Not only was there an Advent Workshop, but we had to “hang the greens,” create costumes and a script for the pageant, and make sure every child knows the meaning of Advent…by the way, they don’t! Every week during Advent I have started the Children’s Time off by asking the kids, “Which season are we in, in the life of the church?” Without fail, even kids who have been there week after week all shout, “Christmas!”
“No!” I want to cry, “It isn’t Christmas! It’s Advent!”
With the end of the semester, finals, and papers that seem to mount up to the sky, I have found that I, like the kids, want to move this along. Can’t we be done with all this work? Can’t we just skip over this waiting and working and struggling and spend a few moments in the bliss of snuggling the newborn baby? Especially since this is the baby that is supposed to make everything okay?
The story of that first Christmas was a challenging one too. Mary was physically uncomfortable and couldn’t wait for that baby to come, Joseph was stressed about making it to Bethlehem for the census, and then there was that whole part about not having anywhere to stay! But they knew, like us, that they could not just fast-forward though all of the stress and the waiting for what was to come.
We don’t get to skip over the hard parts, but our call is to find God in the struggle. Advent teaches us to find the gifts in the “living through,” instead of the “skipping over.” God can be felt in the kindness of a stranger who lets you stay in the stable, in the face of a water protector at Standing Rock, in the eyes of a Syrian refugee. God can even be heard in the voice of a small child yelling, “Christmas!!” when what you really want them to say is “Advent!” We each have our own struggles we are living through, not to be compared to any other suffering. We are just held, by God and by each other, as we travel (okay, maybe trudge, slog and trek) through the journey of Advent to the promise of the Christmas to come.
Sarah Fiske-Phillips is a third-year M.Div. student at Claremont School of Theology. She finds her roots in the Disciples of Christ tradition and is recipient of a scholarship from the Disciples Seminary Foundation, also located in Claremont, CA. She is a licensed pastor in the United Church of Christ and serves as the Assistant Pastor at Irvine United Congregational Church in Irvine, CA. She is passionate about prison reform and serves on the Board of Directors at Crossroads, Inc., an organization that assists formerly incarcerated women.