Advent: The Season of Complexity
By Rev. Becky Brown | 2022-12-02 | 4 min read
We are just beginning to get our feet wet in the Advent Season. The anticipation of the season is already upon us, and the planning for all the festivities is well under way. The swirl or whirlwind of the season is just beginning, and many of us are simply trying to get our bearings. In a season of more, we often are told (by the church, by the Bible, by theological thinkers) that we should, indeed, be doing less. We should be making room, instead of filling rooms. We should be creating space for Jesus, yet we often find ourselves carving out just enough space to fit Jesus into our carefully orchestrated busy-ness. The struggle is real.
As I reflect on this reality, I wonder if the complexity of our modern-day Advent season really is that far away from the original one. Sure, there are clear differences – Mary and Joseph were not worried about being able to afford gifts for their family, weren’t anxiously scrolling the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to make the season even brighter for those they love, and they weren’t stressed about what they should wear to the ugly sweater Christmas party, or one that encourages the guest list to show up in “festive attire.” Yet, I wonder if the lives of Mary and Joseph, of Elizabeth and Zechariah were not also wrought with complexity, contradiction, and their own version of holy chaos.
Think about it. Mary and Joseph were caught up in the juxtaposition of added stress and distraction while encountering God on holy ground. Anticipation of Jesus’ birth was not an idle game. Mary and Joseph were tasked with the reality of coming to terms with the fact that Mary would bear God’s son, and that Joseph would serve as his father on Earth. They were just truly beginning their relationship, were already dealing with difficult realities, and the family stress must have been quite the load to bear. After Mary’s visitation from the angel, she went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth for 3 months. I can only imagine the coordination that took to leave her household, where she undoubtedly contributed to the daily chores, so that she could go and find comfort in her cousin’s company while she came to terms with her holy task. Meanwhile, Joseph was enduring the process of discovering what to do with Mary, since she was with child and the child was not his. Joseph went through his fair share of strife, and then upon making up his mind, needed to gather Mary and pack them up so they could go to Bethlehem for the census. This was a major journey, and required planning and coordination – especially because Mary was pregnant and the baby would be arriving soon. Once they arrived in town to fulfill their civic duties, the reality sunk in that they didn’t really have any place to stay while their due diligence was in process. The Christmas story is also full of stress, anxiety, heart to heart family conversations, added responsibility and questionable expectations, and holiday travel. Sounds familiar.
Yet, in the midst of all that was occurring, Mary and Joseph continued to share with one another about their encounters with the living God. They leaned into those difficult conversations, and trusted that God would pull them through. They were sustained by glimpses of the divine, the lingering glow of angel encounters, and the encouragement of other faithful followers on the journey. I take comfort in this truth during this complex season. May we also cling to those bright spots of holy encounters as we attempt to suspend time to connect to the divine breath of God among us.