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advent abroad

December 7, 2010

Fun fact: did you know that the original title of the hymn “Amazing Grace” was “Faith’s Review and Expectation”? It was inspired by 1 Chronicles 17:16-17, where David takes account of God’s past goodness and expresses his expectations for the future, and I guess John Newton was doing the same thing: reflecting on “once was lost but now am found” and hoping, longing, and preparing for “I shall possess within the veil a life of joy and peace.

In some ways, I feel like “review and expectation” perfectly describes the season of Advent as well–especially for Americans, since it starts right after Thanksgiving (usually a time of review). I love everything about the Christmas season, but learning to approach it as Advent in the last few years–seeing these weeks as a cyclical period of hope, longing, preparation, and expectation–has seriously enriched the way I understand it. It took me a while to catch on because, at our very non-liturgical church at home, we rarely discussed the movement of the church calendar. But to my delight it looks like things are changing up a little this year (of course this would happen in my absence; I’m going to pretend my dad just really misses me and my persistent chirping about how we should include more liturgy into our worship. That’s totally it, right?!).

Anyway, Advent is seeming particularly luminous and overwhelming to me right now, simply because of how different it is for me this year. I have yet to break out a winter coat, or come close to it (though that might be changing this week). My days are marked by, if anything, the Muslim call to prayer. I am in a state of constant restlessness, physically, emotionally, and mentally. And I know that the culmination of all my waiting this year will be a celebration of Christmas in a foreign land and in a foreign tongue. You’d almost think I’d feel more detached from the season, right?

But somehow, it’s actually easier for me to feel the weight of Advent over here. It’s easier to connect with the Nativity journey as we inch closer to the day, because I am on my own journey in the same desert land.  It’s easier to hope because there’s always so much to hope for, even on a day-to-day level: enough water to get through the week, approval for resettlement for my Iraqi friends, that I will understand a little more Arabic today than yesterday. It’s easier to sink into the longing because I long for so many conflicting things: peace and disruption, settledness and direction, to stay here longer and to get home sooner. And it’s easier to be conscious about preparing because the world around me offers no clues that it, too, is preparing: no tinny carols in grocery stores, no bundled up trees on top of cars, no candles in windows. Just me and my deliberate heart.

And it’s that deliberate heart, usually uncomfortable with waiting (I have a short attention span, okay), that’s oiling its rusty joints and repositioning itself into a posture of eager anticipation for once. I’ve had some time to take stock of the past few months, and now I’m facing squarely forward. For now, the prayer inside me is a simple one: O come, o come Emmanuel. God-with-us, be with us. It’s enough to keep me hoping, longing, preparing…

P.S. Jordan has been waiting–fasting and praying–for rain, and we finally got a much overdue drizzle yesterday, alhamdullilah. Now we just need it to keep coming (never mind that it will introduce all kinds of new complications to my daily routine)…

Love and miss you all!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dad permalink
    December 11, 2010 12:12 am

    believe you me, sweetheart! of course the whole Advent is celebrated with
    you in mind. it is gorgeous and everyone is enjoying it! you are the witness and
    the testimony of what church calendar will and can do to help your journey. it’s
    remarkable how you remembered the themes and can by yourself go through
    them. yes, you are in the desert and therefore should be much more aware of
    the rain, the longing of it, the expectation of it, and the joy of it when it finally
    comes down. you are so closed to the land where our Savior was born, i envy
    you. have a wonderful season. you deserve it! miss you a lot. dad

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