Cinnamon, Simeon and Cynicism
Cinnamon, Simeon and Cynicism
Thoughts on Advent
I love everything about Christmas; the knitwear, playlists, seasonal coffee flavours, ‘Home Alone’, yuletide joy (although I don’t really know what that is), eggnog (nor that), and the fact that it’s the season when kitsch becomes cool.
But there’s a lot of expectation and a lot of hype. TV adverts project the need to make it the perfect Christmas and social media posts from friends make it seem like everyone else in the world is having just that - the perfect Christmas.
‘Tis the season
For centuries the church calendar has emphasized seasons, with liturgical cycles. First in the cycle comes the season of Advent, a word we get from the Latin ‘adventus’ which means ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’. This is a time of preparation, a time of longing, hoping, aching for things that are yet to be. We are living in a time between the first and second coming of Christ. Whilst we do see God work in incredible ways and can experience great blessing, we also see pain and confusion. Sometimes relationships don’t work out the way we hoped, families are broken, a fulfilling job seems hard to come by, and financial pressures pile up.
The chasm between the perfection we hope for and the reality of what life is often like can lead to disappointment, which breeds cynicism. And if there’s one thing our generation is known to be good at, it’s cynicism.
But cynicism is easy, waiting is much harder. I know I can be really impatient; the internet went down in my house last week and within seconds I was pulling out wires and reading forums on my phone like never before. Sometimes I wish I was as focused on other things in life as I am when I’m waiting for that ‘Skip Ad’ button on YouTube! And what is it about a bit of traffic that can turn a reasonable adult into a rage within minutes? Anyway, I digress - faithfully and hopefully waiting is tough.
In Luke 2 we are introduced to a devout old guy named Simeon who knew all about waiting. We read that he had been earnestly praying for help for Israel. After the birth of Jesus, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God. He even declared, I imagine with joyful tears in his weary eyes and a shake in his frail but hardened hands, that he was ready to die in peace: “For my eyes have seen salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations.”
Simeon’s faith wasn’t just a passive state of mind, it required action. It required a resolute confidence in what he hoped for and assurance in what he did not yet see.
The challenge Advent presents us with is to reject the image of Christmas formed by big companies which will only leave us feeling disillusioned. Let’s embrace, instead, a season of spiritual formation, a time to reflect and to worship, and a time to tether our souls to the truth and hope we have in Christ.
We’re given an image at the very start of the Bible, “The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:2-3) I find great hope that God’s Spirit hovers over our darkness and chaos today, waiting to speak in light – and he will. This Advent, amidst the flashing lights of shop fronts and trees and the sounds of Michael Bublé, I will try to prepare my heart for the arrival of a new way, a better way, and ask God to enter in.