Skip to main content

advent academics

Image from www.onelittleminuteblog.com
I am in the midst of writing the last exam of my doctorate and perhaps ever! Of course there is still a dissertation to write and defend, but let's not think about that right now. This exam is a 6000-word essay which is due December 24. I suspect that I will email it to the professors late on the 23rd, after a careful final edit, and the next day board a plane to spend the holy days with family. Sigh of relief.

I must admit that I love the rhythm of the academic year. When you walk into your first day of class, you feel a nervous rush of excitement mixed with dread. You don't quite know what to expect, you are not certain you will be able to comprehend the material and do well on all the assignments, and you are never sure who will be with you on that particular slice of the learning journey (pardon the mixed metaphor), but the idea of diving into a subject you don't know much about is an invitation you can't refuse. Then there are the mid-term doldrums [1] where students and teachers alike are fatigued, overwhelmed, and struggle to maintain interest and energy. Then there is the final rush of work - exams and essays and long hours of studying - and just when you feel you have used up every last brain cell and you can't go another day without a proper meal and a good night's sleep, you're done! You exhale, not just one big sigh but lots of sighs. You sit in a daze, not quite able to imagine that nothing is due tomorrow or next week. You wake up that first morning after you have completed your last assignment and feel a lightness of spirit; the weight of impending deadlines no longer burdening your mind from morning till night and sometimes even invading your dreams. Simple activities like having a leisurely cup of tea or reading a novel or meandering down the street are infused with joyous wonder. You feel alive in a world where the colours seem brighter than they have in months and every moment is a gift. And then a week or two later when you get the news that - surprise - you passed the course with flying colours [2], a second wave of relief, thanksgiving, contentment, and joy washes over you.

For me, this is very much what the Christian season of Advent is like [3]. We celebrate and remember the coming of Jesus by entering into a time of waiting. There is the initial anticipation of something new. Perhaps we have an idea of what it will be like, but in reality we really don't know. In the middle of the ongoing waiting and endless preparation we can encounter the doldrums, times of listlessness, restlessness, and fatigue. We find ourselves asking why we signed up for this in the first place. But then we look around us and see that we are not alone; there are others in the same boat, so we band together and help each other to stay the course. Things get more intense, we give it a final push, and then what we have waited for, what we were afraid might never come at all, finally arrives. And we are overcome with joy, we struggle through denial and disbelief, we embrace it and reject it and embrace it again. We slowly become accustomed to a new reality: God is with us. And we breathe a little easier, we feel less burdened, we look at the world with renewed joy, and we pinch ourselves. Yes, this is real. God is here. He is come.

[1] Doldrums: a term adopted from historical maritime usage referring to a part of the ocean near the equator where a low pressure area results in calm winds. This could trap a sailing vessel there for days or even weeks.
[2] Flying colours: another naval expression used in centuries past to refer to victorious ships returning to harbour with flags flying from every masthead to let those on shore know they were successful in their quest.
[3] Advent: this word comes from the Latin verb which means "come to." It carries the sense of "important arrival," "coming," or "approach." It is also closely connected to the word "adventure." Yay, I like adventure!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

fun with hermeneutics

I am a reader. The stacks of books in my bedroom, living room, and office, many of them still waiting to be cracked open, testify to this fact. I love to read, but I also know that not all reading is the same. Some is more work and some is more pleasure. A light work of fiction requires little of me but to engage my imagination and be carried away by the story. Online reading requires a bit (or a lot) of discernment to make sure the sources are reliable and the facts check out. Academic reading requires me to reason through the arguments being made and connect them to what I already know or have read in the field. Reading an ancient text requires that I suspend my 21st century perspective as best I can and learn a bit about the worldview and language of the time. Acknowledging a text's context, intent, and genre enables me to hear the words and ideas in such a way that my view of history and the world are enlarged.

Reading, interpreting, and understanding the Bible are important …

stained and broken

Recently, I was asked to speak at another church, and the passage of Scripture which was assigned to me was John 1:6-8. "There came a man commissioned and sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe [in Christ, the Light] through him. John was not the Light, but came to testify about the Light." (John 1:6-8, Amplified Bible)

The first question I usually ask when reading something in the Bible is this: What does this tell me about God? Two things are immediately obvious - God is a sending God and God wants to communicate - but there is a third which merits a bit more attention. Though God could communicate directly with humanity, sending truth and love to every individual via some divine mind-and-heart-meld, God chooses to send messengers. Not only that, instead of introducing Jesus directly to the world as the main event, an opening, warm-up act appears as a precursor. What is the point of incorporati…

what binds us together?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading a book by famed psychiatrist M. Scott Peck which chronicles his travels (together with his wife) through remote parts of the UK in search of prehistoric stones. The book is part travel journal, part spiritual musings, part psychology, and part personal anecdotes. A mixed bag, to be sure, and not always a winning combination. At one point, I considered putting the book aside, not finishing it, but then Peck started writing about community. He is no stranger to the concept. He has led hundreds of community-building workshops over the years, helped start a non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering community, and written a compelling book about the topic, one which greatly impacted me when I read it oh so long ago.[1]

In preparation for a course I am teaching next year, I have been doing quite a bit of study on unity and community. Once you start thinking about it, you see and hear evidence of it everywhere. (See my blog on the impact of b…