I get into liturgical arguments with a friend of mine all the time, Reader, about the vestment colors for Advent. (Yes, this is how I spend my time. Judge all you like.) He advocates for purple, since Advent is a penitential season; I advocate for blue, because it’s also a Marian season. We’re both right, and we both know it, but it’s fun to find someone who can compete on your level of nerdery.
This week, though, is purple. This week is the first week of waiting in expectation for this God-man and we have ushered it in with so much death and pain. I am angry to the point of stillness, that rage that lapses into apathy because I cannot contain the frustration that we continue to hide our own cravenness under the flag of self-righteousness and fear. Where, then, is solace?
In surprising places, unsurprisingly; God is never one to step out on the obvious stage. I return to my habit of celebrating carols and songs through Advent; this week is It Came upon a Midnight Clear, and I was not at all prepared for how incredibly apt the lyrics are. It feels right to have some accidental notes thrown in like Kutless did; to have the discordant and minor keys show themselves, pushing against our expectations. I know well the “sad and lonely plains” of this battle-scarred, blood-drenched Earth; I have seen the refugees and survivors “beneath life’s crushing load.” And, oh Reader, how much I wait for the whole world to “send back the song / Which now the angels sing.”
But that’s the thing about Advent, Reader; this is the place where we start the new year of the Church, of the faith, of the unending hymn of glory to this God Who came to us when we did not have the wherewithal to go to Him. This is the time that we sing hope into the darkness, that we watch the days grow colder and shorter and we say wait, wait for these hastening days, wait for the angels that bend low to this place, the angels whose golden harps sit just out of our sight. We sing the places of anger to a God Who hears, Who rests with us “beside the weary road” when our feet and our hearts and our ears are bruised and even angel song seems too much. We sing our truth, and God sends His into our stillness in whatever way He can. Sometimes that’s a gentle and recognizable voice; sometimes it’s an electrified build-up of energy. Sometimes it’s a conversation with a friend who’s had good news; sometimes it’s a beautiful sunset.
There is much that demands atonement in our world, Reader. There is much that yammers in our Babel sounds, covering our disquiet with noise and distraction. But there is also the music of angels’ harps, a glorious song striking the clear midnight air by the very strings of stardust. May you find your solemn stillness in this season, Reader. May you hear the unending refrain of hope that calls eternally the promise of “peace on earth, goodwill to men / From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalm 34:18, NLT)