Advent: What to do with the waiting

Advent is almost upon us. That time of the year when we Christians mourn the dark and wait for the light, thankful for the Jesus who came, and longing for him to come again and set everything that is broken to rights.

I think there will be lots of longing this year. But I hope we can find some joy as well. After all, he did come. He is here. We’re not left alone in this broken mess. He sent us the comforter to comfort us so we could comfort others.

If you’re feeling sad, depressed, or frustrated at the state of the world (or the church!) maybe Advent can be a time to process and figure some things out. Here are a few Advent resources:


Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 9.21.46 AM.png  I’ve talked about The Many before, but I still love this Advent and Christmas volume. It’s free on Noisetrade, but you can leave a tip to support their amazing work. Here are some lines from my favorite song that have been running through my head this week: “You shouldn’t be here tonight, it doesn’t seem quite right. Here where the cattle sleep, here where they keep the sheep…You shouldn’t be here tonight, here where the shots ring out, where everything’s burning bright…” It was a song written for Ferguson, and I think it still holds true. Also love “Comfort Ye my People”.

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 9.35.03 AM.png If you’ve never done anything for Advent before, Willow Creek’s Advent project has an amazing liturgy put together for each of the Sundays of Advent. A combination of song and scripture, with some social justice prayers sneaking in there. We like listening to it on Sunday evening as we light our Advent candles. Again, free on Noisetrade.




51jkhtcwrml-_sx339_bo1204203200_ I have not read this book, but it’s on my wishlist. Annie Dillard, Dorothy Day and Madeline L’Engle– OF COURSE I’m going to love it!





Yes, I wrote a book. “In the Valley of the Shadow, Light has Dawned.”It’s $3.99 on Kindle (less than your favorite Starbucks Christmas drink) and it’s a collection of Advent thoughts for each week of Advent. A couple of years ago I emailed Advent thoughts out to some blog readers, and with people’s encouragement, I reformatted them and collected them here. It’s about finding hope and clinging to light in the midst of darkness and death, injustice and suffering. It’s about the incarnation and wholeness. I wrote it for people who are wandering, or wondering, or grieving, or hurting, or angry, or confused, or fed-up, or used up. You can read a preview on Amazon.


screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-9-45-53-amSome people make Advent calendars, and unwrap chocolate, or presents, or do fun Christmassy activities each week leading up to Christmas. What if you made an Advent calendar that focused on the vulnerable this year? If you live in Dallas, you can adopt a refugee family for Christmas through the IRC- take on some tangible needs and go shopping for them. Check out your local library and see if they have any community holiday events for refugees or immigrants that they need help with. Read part of organizing guide that goes along with the New Jim Crow (just 99c on kindle!), get educated about strategic passive resistance, and join a group in your area working for criminal justice reform. Phone your representative  or have a call-in party to share your views on refugees, immigrants, and the vulnerable. Call a friend and ask how they’re doing. Be willing to listen and sit in their pain with them. **Tip: Be sure your helping isn’t hurting. For example, don’t just show up at a shelter with tons of your old stuff. At Christmas time, organizations can get inundated with well-meaning donations that actually just create more work in the long run. Make sure your giving isn’t just about you feeling better, but really can help. Call ahead and ask what your local organization really needs this time of year. 

Need ideas? Some organizations I love in the USA: World Relief (has chapters in many US cities, works with immigrants and refugees), Dry Bones Denver (works with youth who have left home), Campaign Zero (Criminal justice reform, specifically police-focused), Equal Justice Initiative (Criminal justice reform, working with death row, women, and children in the system) Emmaus Ministries (reaching out to men in survival prostitution on the streets of Chicago).

What are some things you’ve done to celebrate advent in the past? What are some things you’re doing to grieve or process your pain at this time? What are some ways you’re working for justice? 


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