How to Wait for a Slow-Moving Messiah
Shhh. Enuma Okoro is inviting us to listen to God in silence this Advent.
At this season of the year, the air bustles with the hurried cadence of the annual December Festivus Frenzy, with its cacophony of shoppingholidaypartiescookieexchangesconcertsdecoratingwrapping. The weeks leading up to Christmas often feel more like beating a deadline than connecting more deeply to God.
Advent's rhythms of contemplation, repentance, and preparation of heart give us an opportunity to unwrap - slowly and oh-so-intentionally - the real gift of this season. To that end, author and Her.meneutics contributor Okoro has written a devotional entitled Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent (Upper Room, 2012). It offers 28 days of brief, rich meditations on themes such as doubt, barrenness, waiting-as-labor, and receiving God's promises.
I recently talked to Okoro about how creating space in our lives for Advent, which begins this Sunday, can reshape our experience this month.
Was Advent part of your Christmas experience growing up?
I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church in both the United States and West Africa, so yes, Advent was very much a part of my childhood Christmas experiences, more so with Advent calendars and such. I think I had a bit of a girl-crush on Mary when I was younger. I held her in awe. The fact that she was pregnant with God blew my little mind. I still have a girl crush on her, but now it's because I recognize her courage and her strength to say yes to bearing God.
How has Advent shaped your experience of Christmas as an adult?
Advent reminds me in a very visual, powerful way that we are called to be pregnant with God. We are all called to labor with bringing Christ into the world, not just at Advent but throughout the year. The Advent cycle is a wonderful way of reposturing ourselves for delivery throughout the year. Because I recognize Advent, it means that I recognize Christmas more as a season than a day. I don't decorate my tree until the last weekend of Advent, and then I keep it up through the 12 days. I love the aesthetics and smells of Christmas, and sometimes it feels like an extra treat when I've had to wait for it.
Some Christians don't have experience with Advent much beyond thinking of it as a Christmas countdown. Why should they celebrate Advent?
Advent reminds us that as Christians, we follow a different understanding of time than the rest of the world. One gift of deepening our Advent observance is in its drastically different pace to the holiday culture. Advent can teach us to honor the seasons of our lives in which life doesn't happen at the pace we desire. We can all relate to that at some point.