an angsty advent

I’m back. Sort of. It’s a wild time of year and not much time to write but I hope you checked out Mark Charles’ video and some of the other resources from the last post here. We are in full swing of Advent and end-of-year stuff at The Refuge and this week several of our college and grad school kids trickle home from Christmas break. Sprinkled throughout this month is the reality of how brutal this season of year is for so many I know. Grief, loneliness, depression, and the holiday blues are real, and a lot of folks are holding on by a thread. 

Besides the When Christmas is Hard realities, this year it seems there’s an added twist to the mix.

It’s an extra angsty advent season for so many.

Many of us are just not feeling quite right.

We aren’t just not singing fa-la-la; we have a whole string of other choice words that start with “f” on the tip of our tongues. 

We feel like we are living in alternate reality or actors in a dark comedy, wondering “How can we really have a president like this? Or his army of followers?” 

We are wondering how the ways of the modern church have strayed so far from the ways of Jesus, whose birth we’re celebrating.

We cringe when we hear the word “Christian” associated with things that couldn’t be further from our values or heart. 

We weep knowing that thousands and thousands of children are separated from their parents, detained, traumatized, with no end in sight, and most of us reading this will put our heads on a soft comfy pillow tonight.

We aren’t dreaming of sugar plums but of jail sentences and indictments. 

We are angry, for good reasons.  

We long for simple solutions but are waking to the reality that the mess we’re in is far more complicated than we ever dreamed of, and we won’t untangle it anytime soon. 

We are grateful to be outsiders because we no longer want to be on the inside of patriarchal oppressive systems but it’s also just…weird, foreign, and lonely. 

We feel tired from two straight years of protesting, advocating, writing letters, signing petitions, and making phone calls. Then we are completely convicted because we remember that so many have been doing this for decades upon decades without relief because their lives and their children’s lives have depended on it and we’re just novices in this next new chapter of the USA’s story. 

We feel sick when look beyond the US and see the waves of nationalism and different forms of racism running rampant worldwide. 

We hear stories of hope and weep with joy one minute and then the next day we wake up with heavy hearts at the depth of the divisions between people with no end in sight. 

Yeah, some days we are tired of paradox yet we are grateful for it, too. 

Advent is a season of hope, waiting, expectation. 

It’s the time between now and not yet. 

It’s the hope of the birth of Jesus–God, with us, the prince of Peace, entering into the world in human form to turn the world on its head. 

Our off-ness isn’t a sign of a lack of peace or prayer or faith. 

I think what so many of us are experiencing this year is a holy turbulence.

A stirring out of complacency.

A re-orienting of our hearts and guts and practices. 

Yeah, Advent is somehow supposed to be angsty, angry, and weird.

I definitely get the contemplative parts where we are seeking peace on earth and good will to men; I love space during this time of year to quiet my heart and engage with what’s going on deep in my soul.

For a lot of us what’s going on deep in our souls is angst and a sincere longing for justice and peace to prevail. 

We can use the churn to help propel us to something new. 

It starts with recognizing our part in the story and that we each play a part in healing, restoring, reconciling, serving, loving, advocating, transforming in all kinds of different ways. We can embody Jesus, which will mean that we will rock the boat, upset the status quo, and do all kinds of things that don’t make the usual kind of sense.  

We can use the rumbling for good.

I have been in a bit of an extra angsty head space this past six weeks, especially as I watch so much division not only between the political or theological polarities but also between people that should be working together–women cutting down other women and progressives policing instead of bridge-building. It’s the first time in a long time I have thought of retiring from anything related to the wider community beyond the refuge. 

Then I remember my own words: Use our angst for action.  

It’s not time to give up or run for the hills or waste on critiquing others. 

Rather, it’s time to take a breath, notice the angst, and use it for good however we can.

For me, that means keep using my own unique voice (even when it shakes and falters and misspeaks), lifting up others’ voices, and doing whatever I can do to cultivate healing community and collaborations because we need each other now more than ever. 

Like all-things-faith, we might not see the fruit of our efforts the way we hope. 

However, I do feel clear that this angsty Advent season we all have a part to play in restoring the world, embodying Jesus, and practicing a better way together.

My Advent prayer is this: 

God, help us use our angst for action. 

Keep re-orienting our hearts and guts and practices. 

Keep showing us the way.

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I didn’t write much this year for the holidays but I have in many seasons past, so if you just type in “advent” in the search bar, there are years of posts. Since I have written here in October, I also have a couple of posts at SheLoves Magazine for November and December:

Also, coming in February is our next Walking Wounded: Hope For Those Hurt by Church and Ministry 4 week online class. It’s a really healing space for anyone who wants to get unstuck from church baggage. Let me know if you have any questions. 

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Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

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