"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: A Mindful Advent

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Mindful Advent

Happy Advent, friends. Here are excerpts from a wonderful sermon last week (by our seminary intern):

I don’t remember much Latin but I do remember that phrase “Veni Vidi Vici” -- I came, I saw, I conquered. I think of it every year when we come to the season of Advent and I try to re-remember what the word “advent” means. It comes from the Latin: Julius’ Caesar’s “veni” (I came) together with the prefix “ad” meaning “to” or “toward.” Thus "advent" means “come to.”

Advent is a season of waiting for Christ’s coming to us. More precisely, it is a season of waiting for the comings of Christ to us.

Julius Caesar came, saw, and conquered – all in past tense. Once. Done. Finished.
Jesus Christ came to us – once long ago as a baby born of Mary;
Jesus Christ continues to come to us daily in the Word of God, in Communion, among our brothers and sisters of faith; and
Jesus Christ will come once again to us in glory.

Advent is a season of waiting for all these comings of Christ.

Not all waiting is the same, however. There’s waiting… and there’s Advent waiting. Waiting is standing in the long snaking line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles on a Friday afternoon. Advent waiting is the 16 year old in that same line, waiting to sign up to take her test for her learner’s permit. She’s waiting, but she’s waiting with something more. She’s waiting with hope, with anticipation, with expectation.

Waiting is lining up behind the ranks of passengers heading out of Boston’s Logan Airport as it seems security ever-so-slowly checks ID’s and carry-on baggage. Advent waiting is the businessman set to fly out on that plane on his home trip, returning to his family after being gone for over a week. He’s waiting, but he’s waiting with something more. He’s waiting with hope, with anticipation, with expectation.

There’s that whole room established for the purpose of waiting at the doctor’s office. Waiting is sitting in one of those upright chairs with a two-year old magazine trying to figure out how many people are ahead of you. Advent waiting is the young couple in that waiting room waiting to see if it’s true – if they are indeed going to have an addition to the family. They’re waiting, but they’re waiting with something more. They’re waiting with hope, with anticipation, with expectation.

There’s waiting…and there’s Advent waiting. Advent waiting is waiting with a twist – with hope; with anticipation; with expectation.

In this Advent season we wait the comings of Christ. How do we wait? Is it true Advent waiting – with hope; with anticipation; with expectation? Or is it with anxiety and frustration and maybe even a little bit of boredom – same old, same old?

We know the story . . . how do we keep the Advent sense of hope and anticipation and expectation – when we know the ending? . . . . it is precisely because we do know the ending that we await with hope and anticipation and expectation. . .
the ending is not the candles or the tree or the poinsettias or the carols . . . the ending is Jesus.

What do we do with ourselves during this period of Advent waiting? Jesus gives three commands. He says, “Beware! Keep alert! Keep awake!” We are to be vigilant and watchful in our Advent waiting. Not looking for signs from above like stars falling or the sun darkening or other such things – not looking for evidence about the timing of Christ’s coming. That is a futile search as our text tells us, for no one knows!

The only hint we get from Scripture is that the time will be soon. How soon is soon? If you have read the Chronicles of Narnia . . . you may remember this conversation between Lucy and Aslan, the lion who is the Christ-figure in the story.
“Do not look so sad,” Aslan says. “We shall meet soon again.”
“Please, Aslan,” said Lucy, “what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon,” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.

No need to watch the skies. We live in these “soon” times -- now. Christ is here! In Advent we don’t pretend that Christ has not yet come to earth. We don’t pretend not to know the ending. We acknowledge his presence now even as we look to his future coming. And as we look to his future coming, we keep awake. We watch. We keep ourselves alert and aware of God’s presence in the world – Christ who came and Christ who comes.

A former colleague of mine calls this sense of awareness of God “mindfulness" . . .

When the Buddha was asked, “Sir, what do you and your monks practice?” he replied, “We sit, we walk, and we eat.” The questioner continued, “But sir, everyone sits, walks, and eats.” And the Buddha told him, “When we sit, we know we are sitting. When we walk, we know we are walking. When we eat, we know we are eating.”

Most of us live our lives apart from the present . . . apart from this knowing. We are distracted from the present by memories of the past or by future projects and concerns. When we are mindful, we are truly aware, we are alert, we are watchful, we are fully open to the present. Wherever we go – there we are.

When we are mindful of the comings of Christ, we are awake and alert to the presence of God all around us. We are awake and alert for opportunities to follow Christ who came once as a baby in Bethlehem – calling us to love one another, to offer compassion to others, and to work for justice and peace. When we are mindful of the comings of Christ, we are awake and alert for the coming of Christ to us every day in Scripture, in baptism, in Holy Communion. We live our lives knowing the ending – that wherever we go – there we are – and there God is.


  1. I hope we can all stop in this hustle and bustle and reflect. Very good explanation of Advent.

  2. Should we remember also the second coming of Christ at this Advent and christmas season? Are we looking forward to it?

    Merry christmas!

    Huckleberry from Finland

  3. LLLreader: In the Apostolic church I grew up in the second coming of Christ was used as a threat. I don't think of the return of Christ as a fearful event anymore--anymore then I consider death something to be feared. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know". John 14:1-4

  4. What is up with you people on this site? Why not just leave this church and get on with your life or get a life! Most people who leave a church for another just do so quietly and go on with their lives. Obviously you folks have a lot of issues and feel the need to go on and on justifying ot each other why you left and keep lambasting this church.
    Is that being a Christian?
    You are really sound like a lost buch of poor souls...

  5. Easier said than done. You probably weren't raised in one of these churches. People in these churches are very close knit, similar to those of a cult. Often, leaving is difficult because we are leaving that closeness with other people in the congregation behind, and ending a lot of traditions. In some of the churches, the moment you leave, you are shunned from existence in their world.

    In my quest to find a healthier faith, I have tried out many different churches, but none feel quite as comfortable as the one I was raised in. But, time does help, and I am slowly healing and forgiving. I am trying to leave the apostolic church i was raised in behind me. Sometimes it is comforting to talk to other people who have experienced some of the same things. I was also hurt badly by the church and I hope that by talking and sharing different ideas, we can help others from getting hurt too.

    So, is it right that people say bad things about the church? What would you do if a church, a place where you should feel loved and accepted...humiliated your family and friends? Judged your faith?
    Could you just walk away? Or, would you carry some resentment? I still carry resentment, but sharing thoughts and ideas with these people who understand the culture of the church has helped me to move on and realize their are other people out there with the same struggles.