I am so excited that Advent is finally here; it really is my favorite time of year. Of course, some of this is because of the secular [read: commercial] Christmas season that started with Thanksgiving, really. I can’t help myself: I love decorating the house, writing Christmas cards, shopping for presents, baking, etc., etc.; and I go all in from the first week after Thanksgiving.
But, I do also really love the liturgical season of Advent. The music, the wreath, the candles, the advent calendars; and this year, I love the advent devotional I chose. It is titled Advent for Everyone: A Journey with the Apostles, by N. T. Wright. I confess to not being the biggest fan of Wright, but this devotional is really good.
Today, I’d like to share a brief snippet from today’s entry, reflecting on 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. Wright is talking about Paul and whatever mystery “suffering” he has undergone–we don’t know quite what happened, but we know it is serious, because he talks about his despair and the “death sentence” he feels he has received. About that, Wright has this to say: “It’s bad enough to hear a magistrate declare that you are sentenced to death; it’s far worse when a voice deep inside yourself tells you that you might as well give up and die. That is the point Paul had reached, the point where the night had become totally dark and all hope of dawn had disappeared.”
I was struck by that, because, of course, I know for many people, the “outer darkness” we experience during this season is matched by an “inner darkness” of hopelessness and depression. It is not always so easy to be “merry and bright.”
Yet, even in the midst of his darkness, Paul finds a way to give thanks. And, again, here is Wright about that: “For Paul, when human beings give thanks to God, something at the heart of the universe comes back into proper shape. Humans thanking the creator for [God’s] goodness are a symptom of the way the world was meant to be, a sign that one day it really will be like that.” I appreciate that idea, the thought that gratitude is a sign of hope, of belief that the world is turning–that God is at work in spite of how I feel, or what I see.
One more thing. Wright also says, “When two people or communities pray seriously for one another, a bond is set up between them that transforms their relationship when they meet again.” Isn’t that lovely? I would go further, actually: I think prayer transforms the relationship even while they are apart–even if they never meet again. Prayer is that powerful.
It was a great Advent message–not only for today, but for the whole season.