Anticipation: A Hope For The Present
By Gail Song Bantum, D’09
Worship Leader and Speaker
As the song goes, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year…it’s the hap - happiest season of all!” but is it? For some, it may be a dreaded and amplified season of a growing to do list. For others, it may be a burden, be it financial, familial, and/or social.
And yet for others, it may just be a relief that the year is almost over in hopes of a better one to come.
However, as we continue in the season of Advent, we are reminded of an anticipation that calls forth rejoicing--rejoicing in the knowledge that this Christ we wait for is indeed coming. So often, we spend much of our time anticipating this or that that we fail to live into the present moments. We are constantly consumed by the to do’s that we do not know what it means to be. We are so focused on what is to come that we lose sight of what is. What is, is the reality that Christ has already come, has come as us and for us. For Christians, Advent is a season of anticipation that allows us to fully live into the already. It is not a hope that is marked by angst or uncertainty. Rather, I like to think that we are invited to participate more as midwives than visitors in the birth of our Christ. It is an active call to be present and rejoicing at every stage of the way --in the news of conception, in the stretching of the skin, in the false alarms of labor, in the intensity of pushing, and yes, in the cheesy and mangled mess that a newborn really is. We have been invited into such a life of participation, embracing the gift of the present moments in hopes of what is to come.
Children are great at this. While my children know that Advent and Christmas are about Jesus’ birth and the celebration of Christ being present with us, there is something special about this season that draws out a particular kind of joy in them. The sheer excitement that they possess during the month of December is contagious and convicting all at the same time. The joys that they find in the little things like twinkling lights, mesmerizing Christmas villages, the many snowflakes folded and cut out on the windows and hung from the ceiling, their turn lighting the Advent candle, their cup of hot chocolate, and yes, the hourly chime of the Christmas clock is an anticipation that is marked by the embracing of the present moment. For children Christmas is something that is happening to them. Their excitement is participatory.
Children often offer us glimpses of pure joy and anticipation in ways that our tired and marred hearts sometimes fail to see. Such joy is a gift. While anticipation is marked by rhythms of momentum and energy in our lives that keep us hoping and looking forward, the beauty in such anticipation is that it allows freedom to enjoy and embrace the now. It is only when we choose to live into the seemingly small joys of being alive, of friendships, of laughter, of provision, of days off, or whatever it may be, that we are able to anticipate, live into and hope in what is to come.
I pray that our lives would always be pregnant with such anticipation and hope…. not an aimless hope but a hope that is found in a God who creates, breathes and forms our inmost being. May our hope participate in the gift of Christ and in the lives of one another. In this season of busy unrest, find joy in the little things – in the laughter of your child, in the love of your friends, in the smell of your tea, or in the rhythm of your favorite song.
Be full of hope and know that everyday is a gift.
Gail Song Bantum, M.Div, is a 2009 graduate of Duke Divinity school. A well-known worship leader and advocate for the arts, you can read her theology and arts blog.