LABADIE: Waiting in hope

November 24, 2020

In “The Liturgical Year,” Joan Chittister wrote: “Advent relieves us of our commitment to the frenetic in a fast-paced world. It slows us down. It makes us think. […] Advent asks the question, what is it for which you are spending your life? What is the star you are following now? And where is that star in its present radiance in your life leading you?”

Ironically, Advent begins as life outside of the liturgical year increases in intensity. This time of year can certainly feel hectic as we make travel plans, buy gifts and tend to end-of-the-year tasks and to-dos. This fast-paced season is all too common for college students as final projects and exams culminate in the first two weeks of December. These realities are felt more deeply in light of the anxiety and fatigue of living through a pandemic.

Perhaps, then, Advent couldn’t begin at a more perfect time — an opportunity for stillness and silence, for watchful hope and expectant waiting. Biblically, Advent invites us to enter deeply into that tension of Jesus’ first and second comings — remembering with awe God’s becoming human and awaiting with hope His coming again in glory. We pray, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” knowing that God’s presence with us is already but not yet. Such is the meaning of hope: waiting with expectation, as a pregnant woman waits for her child to be born.

But how? We’ve heard this message of hope time and again, and you may be tired of reading it once more. It sounds nice, but how do we really live it? Our faith story transforms us the more we hear it. We will hear the invitation to hope many times this Advent, as we did last year and the year before that.

With each re-telling of this story of God lovingly entering into our humanity, our suffering, the message of hope sinks in a new and deeper way. It is no wonder that the prophets urged Israel to remember; it is easy to forget the promises that God fulfilled in the past when a new trial emerges in our present. To hope is trust that we are part of a narrative bigger than ourselves, to look toward the resurrection and new life that Christ promises with expectation.

The challenge and opportunity of Advent lie in cultivating stillness and silence, time for resting with Christ. This sacred silence allows us to ponder the hope of the angel’s message as Mary did.

As you enter this Advent season, here are some questions worth sitting with:

  • How is God seeking to come into my life? In what ways is Jesus already present in my life?
  • How will I respond to the angel’s interruption? Is it easy or difficult for me to trust this message? Why?
  • How might Mary’s waiting and surrender to God be a model in my own relationship with God?
  • What is one way I will be intentional this Advent, preparing my heart to receive Jesus anew? 

Nicole Labadie, MDiv., is the director of campus ministry at the University of St. Thomas.