From Lent to Advent

For over a year we’ve employed the liturgical season of Lent to describe our Covid experience—a wilderness journey that has involved sacrifices both chosen and imposed. Our “Lenten discipline” has consisted of solitude and separation,whether we wanted these practices to be ours or not.

Now we are coming back together to some degree—with an emphasis on to some degree. Many of us have experienced the freedom and newfound safety of having been vaccinated; others are further emboldened by a widening circle of friends and associates who have also received vaccinations. Many are ready to remove masks more comfortably, visit more proximately, shake hands or hug more freely. Many are dining out, meeting in person, opening up their homes to visitors.

Many are; but many aren’t. Some of us are still cautious about public interactions with others, keeping our masks, keeping our distance (both of which are still required on the Laurel Heights campus), keeping our guard up. No no hugs, no handshakes; no mixing it up just yet.

This is our new reality. We have moved, figuratively, from Lent to Advent, the season of already-and-not-yet. In Advent we speak of a Savior who will be born to us, and yet who already inhabits our history and redeems our world. And so Advent yearns with expectancy for what is yet to be, even while savoring the once and future gift of the Savior. Normally our language during that season is metaphorical; in this moment, already-and-not-yet is very much our experience as we move from a Covid existence into a Covid-plus-safeguards existence toward what we hope will be a Covid-suppressed existence.

As we begin to find our way to Laurel Heights again for worship and other gatherings this means many things—including some uncertainty regarding how to greet one another when we gather for worship or other events, whether to attend in person at all, what protocols we can expect will have changed by next week, or next month. When can we all sing again? When can we shake hands? Pass an offering plate? Share Holy Communion? When can we enjoy refreshments and laughter in the Fellowship Hall?

When attorney Jerry Blackwell said earlier this week that “progress rolls like a brick” I immediately thought of our current process at Laurel Heights of seeking to move forward, but doing so in fits and starts, haltingly, tentatively, trustingly but guardedly, with a blend of enterprise and caution. I’ve said before that our seasons are wiser than we are. Perhaps that is in part because they train us in the dispositions so essential for living gracefully in awkward and challenging circumstances. In this case, observing the Advent season over the years will have shaped our hearts in an already-and-not-yet spiritual posture that promises to serve us well in an al-ready-and-not-yet time. Welcome to a spring and summer of Advent. God is with us; and God is near.

Grace and peace.