I’m sitting at Panera in Green Hills this morning with a million different thoughts going through my mind. There are many plates spinning – our Advent happenings at the church, a number of community possibilities, and the gearing up of opposition to the English First referendum here in Nashville. Combine that with our economic recession and all sorts of stories in the news, and one comes up with a brain that is pulled in far too many directions.
Perhaps the greatest struggle I face this month is attempting after six years to bring newness and life to our Advent season at AUMC. Of course, it would be easy to fall back on tradition, allowing that to guide our Advent. I could easily go through the motions and duplicate what we’ve done in the past, trusting that the traditions have meaning to all. Yet, that is the problem with many of our traditions – the ease with which we simply go through the motions, not engaging with the presence of God in our midst. We do things again and again because it is easy and familiar, but in that familiarity we nod off, laying in our comfort, and avoiding challenge and confrontation at all costs. This happens more often than not out of expediency rather than any sort of active attempts at avoiding change. We do the same thing because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to create something new, and creating something new takes emotional energy that we don’t have to give.
This isn’t to say that traditions aren’t filled with meaning, for they absolutely can be infused with the presence of God. The problem is not with God’s use of traditions, but rather our inability to approach these traditions with a spirit of expectation and wonder, searching for God’s presence in new and fresh ways. Our desire for familiarity has less to do with a belief in God’s presence in the familiar, and more to do with our need for control and understanding.
For me this year, there is a great need to move in new directions in experiencing Advent and Christmas. Yet, discerning those directions has come slowly. There is a sense after being in the church for many years that all is familiar, and it’s been hard to bring the spirit of freshness to the table. Some of this is due to the need for rest and renewal, and some is due to the increasing frustration I feel regarding the commercialism of the season, a frustration that often makes me want to withdraw entirely from observing the holiday entirely. Yet, I know that part of my task is to open up new ways of experiencing the season for others. That’s what I’ve been trying to do over the past weeks in preparing for this season, but it hasn’t come easily, and I ask for your prayers in the days and weeks ahead as we wait and and watch for the coming of Christ into our world.