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Waking Up to Voices: an Advent Reflection

Updated: Jun 20, 2021

Something bizarre and spooky happened a month ago. In early November several people mysteriously received texts that were sent around Valentines Day but only arrived in their phones November 7th. Let's set aside for a moment that the kind of texts that go out around Valentines Day are going to have their own special entertainment value. Can you imaging the shock of waking up to 10 month old messages? As I read the article, I was struck by a few things. First, the phenomenon was never fully explained. It happened across several major cell carriers and none could concretely articulate what had happened. Second, some of the stories were very entertaining as patrons recounted drunk texts from ex-boyfriends and confessions of love that went unanswered due to a technical glitch.

But what hit me hardest, and what I can't seem to shake, are the stories of texts received from people who, in the 10 months, had passed away. The unnerving stories that were shared by those who had the shock of waking up to texts from a dead loved one were unparalleled. Can you even imagine? For many there was a spectrum of emotions; from shock and disbelief to grief to comfort and even sad-sweetened joy.

This Advent season I find myself reflecting back on these stories. For me, there is an eerie return to pages of Scripture where the apocalyptic and prophetic messages of Isaiah, Revelation, and John the Baptist call me back to a rich engagement with this beautiful and strange season of the church calendar. Advent feels less "Christmas-y" and more haunting. It's a time that calls me to ruminate on the Magnificat and ancient prophets. I spend time thinking about wombs and cosmos. I spend more time in the dark.

This dynamic and hopeful waiting works on me and breaks open my heart to new prayers for my community and country. The advent messengers from Scripture come to me like voices speaking into the darkness. As I read the lectionary passages it feels as though I'm getting unexpected text messages from the dead. Except these are not texts held in 10 months of cyberspace. Rather, it is I who have been asleep this whole time and Advent wakes me up to the ancient voices of the saints. These long past brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers of the faith are finding me this Advent season. Each night we light our candles and echo the Words in the Daily Office. Even after we blow the candles out, I hear those Words hang in the darkness.

I have had trouble trying to explain what makes Advent so different from Christmas. So many brilliant authors have written about this important season. I have shared their articles and tweets but struggled to explain in my own words. Tonight, I finally found a way to crack the door so that you, my dear friends, can see what Advent is from where I sit.

It is like waking up to voices.

And these voices are the Advent messengers recorded in Holy Scripture. They are the voices that draw me back into a place that is dark, but where I am strangely awake.

If you've been thinking about joining other believers in this season of Advent, I encourage you to give it a try. For me, it is a season of spiritual healing and revived disciplines. We don't put up the tree just yet. The nativity scenes are waiting for baby Jesus. It's a little softer, slower, and darker. We learn lessons in the dark that will break us. We hear beautiful voices in the dark. We wait here for four weeks, ...

But then, oh the Light!

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