By this time of year, words like weary and exhausted are normally fair summaries of how many of us are feeling. How much more so is the case at the end of 2021?
When you’re in the ocean facing sets of waves coming through, there are normally moments of calm between the sets. A chance to recover your breath and prepare for the next set.
Recent history has been like a set of waves without the calm spaces in between. The last two years have been an onslaught of wave after wave after wave. And so, even here, as we come towards the end of this year, and hope it will bring punctuation to a very painful period of time, we are faced with questions that may raise our anxiety a notch. What will 2022 throw at us? Will Omnicron or other variants present unexpected curveballs like Delta did? Will something else we could never have predicted occur? Will things ever feel calm again?
I was speaking to a mental health clinician recently about the concept of ‘recovery’ and what this might look like for our communities after all we have been through during the last couple years. And he pointed out that to ‘recover’ implies getting back something that was taken or lost. And it seems like some of the things we have lost just may not return, at least not in the form that they previously took.
We are undoubtedly in a time of transition globally. We’re living through a tumultuous period of history that will be looked back on as a turning point. A shift. In a number of areas, this has to be true out of necessity. Survival. The way we care for our planet must change, if we desire a flourishing future for our children and grandchildren. The way the Church exists in the world must change; if it is to take seriously the mass spiritual exodus taking place and offer a place of sanctuary and hope for modern pilgrims. The way we maintain our humanity in the face of rapidly increasing technology; the way we handle our political disagreements, the way we love our neighbour — all must change if something new is to emerge from these weary shells we inhabit. These wine skins simply will not hold the new wine.
And, in all of this, the quiet gift of the season of Advent arrives.
It does not arrive and offer us certainty.
It does not arrive and offer us pat answers.
It does not arrive and free us from the complexities of the modern world.
It gently offers us an acknowledgement of our weariness. And an invitation to hopeful and aching waiting, built on the insistence that light enters the world after every dark night. That Christ has come, continues to come and will come again.
Come, all you who are weary.
Come, you who are disillusioned. You who are grieving. You who are numb.
Let’s ache and wait and hope together, as the season of Advent gently invites us to.