The gray clouds of December threaten overhead, my students have begun to beg and plead for late-grades and leniency, and teachers wander the halls, bleary eyed in a haze of grading—all of which mean that the frenzied holidays are soon upon us. 

For many this is a time of dread.  Family can be a source of anxiety, an unwelcome trigger to revisit unresolved pain.  For others it is a time of mourning, their homes empty of the ringing laughter or calming presence of their lost loved ones.  For almost all of us, it is a time of stress—a blur of tasks and unexpected expenses.

This is why I love the season of Advent.  It reminds us that life is often full of the pangs of waiting.  Each week in preparation for the coming of Christmas, we light a candle: the first week for hope, the second for peace, the third for joy, and the fourth for love.  We light these candles not in a blind Kumbaya to insulate us against the harsh realities so evident in 2016, but precisely because of them.  The world needs a stronger hope; it clamors for peace; it longs for greater joy; it is desperate for love.  So we strive cultivate these characteristics in ourselves and in our community, even as the Earth keeps on madly spinning. 

Recently, my church found out about a family of five who is relocating here in a few weeks, just days before Christmas.  They’ll come empty handed, displaced from their house and the urban Baltimore neighborhood they’ve called home for their whole lives, fleeing loss and pain.  Hours away from all they’ve known, they’ll probably feel like aliens in an alien land.  They are a flesh-and-blood reminder of the need for greater love in the world.

So we do our part, however slight it might seem.  We plan to pack out their apartment, so that they will arrive to closets already lined with clothes and pantries already full of food.  We will welcome them, assist with their basic needs as they regain their footing, and hope our loving community can meet some of their less tangible needs as well. 

This is what Advent is about: active waiting—believing that the moral arc of the universe may not be as long as it seems, and helping it to bend toward justice with whatever small acts we able to offer. 

Go in peace, my friends!