I believe that the rhythms of our community life here at Highland are more formative and important to me than I may pause to acknowledge during the Advent season. I believe that the things we say and do shape us, especially those things we ritualize, whether we realize it or not. The ritual of anxiety I feel around politics and public life is one variety I’ve kept for quite some time. But, when I am present here, our rituals of confession and assurance, greetings in our halls, shared meals together, singing and listening, and more, each offer the gift of hope—even as I experience the groundlessness of our being.
What, you may wonder, of groundlessness? Well, I mean that Advent and the prophet Isaiah remind me to remember the past, to be responsive here and now, and to shape a new future. At every moment, my experience of time is moving between what was, what is, and what will be. What is, is the most fleeting of all. When I am spiritually unwell, distracted by the problem of evil most typically, I tend to become lost in reliving the past over and over, or on the other end, despairing about the future that is neither here nor certain to pass.
A friend much wiser than me speaks to this dilemma and a possible way out of the darkness with a simple saying, “Is, is.” By accepting that whatever “is, is” we are able to live in the present moment, trusting that of the new things being worked from our past and the goodness, not despair, of our future: all belong to God. We can either join God, or we can choose isolation. The first choice leads to freedom, the second leads to life lived in perpetual darkness.
For me, this season is everything at once. In the Advent remembering, living, and dreaming, I feel joy and sadness, anxiety and freedom, but mostly the comfort of a community that moves through all of it together (…they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’). My hope for you this Advent is that you are able to accept whatever “is, is,” not in a way that denies your personhood, but as an opportunity to love someone else and allow others to love you as you need.