I teach 8 hours a week at a little mom’s day out program at my church. One of the surprisingly fun things about this Christmas is that I got to teach my class of seven 2-year-olds all about the Christmas story. Since our family is in the middle of something of a “liturgical turn,” I also taught them a little about advent.
But they are 2. So their lesson was pretty much limited to showing them advent candles and teaching them that “advent means waiting.”
And honestly? That was pretty much all I knew about advent too.
I’d always thought that the “waiting” of advent was merely a waiting for Christ’s return in the Left Behind sense; Christ’s return was merely my being swept up to heaven which after, growing up in a rapture-obsessed evangelical culture, I just can’t get myself too worked up over anymore.
But then this season our Bible study group did a short study on advent and my perspective on advent changed. I’d never thought about Christ’s return as being a return of justice and comfort for the world. A world that, as my college friend Paul pointed out to me yesterday, has over a billion people in it without clean drinking water and still suffering from terrible diseases that our part of the world no longer has any memory of. Let alone the suffering of populations much closer to home that I have never given the time of day to because I’m too wrapped up in my own small concerns.
And that was the first time in my sheltered, affluent American life that I started to grasp at the deep, deep longing that songs like O Come, Emmanuel are getting at.