“Daddy, Daddy!” 4-year-old Cole came running up. “Let’s play hide and seek, you count to a-a million, and I’ll go hide, then you come and find me!” (Never, “look for me.” Always, “Find Me!”).
And so it would go, “…eight, nine, a million, here I come!” And I’d hear him! Giggling, leaving behind a trail of noise – staying connected. As for me, always knowing his whereabouts from the calculated trail of clatter, I would nonetheless play by the rules. “I wonder where Cole is?” I’d holler.
“In the closet!!!” he came back, his little boy dramavoice marinated with anticipation while leaving nothing to chance. And I’d arrive in his room still following his racket—his breathing behind the door—his soul on the edge.
Now his closet had one space, but two doors to get in, so I asked in feigned confusion, “I wonder which door he’s behind?”
“THIS ONE!” he shouted back from his dark space, pounding fists almost bursting out, door quivering like a gothic horror house. I threw it open and burst he did, breathlessly into the light, jumping into my body, wrapping his arms around my neck declaring, “I win! Let’s play again!”
How could Cole be so certain of winning? I promise to come back to that, but first….
What does this have to do with Advent? I’m glad you asked. For a moment, be the child in the closet—in the darkness. It’s not hard to imagine in 2020.
Before his execution, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from a Nazi prison, “A prison cell like this is a good analogy for Advent,” he said. “One waits, hopes, does this or that—ultimately negligible things—the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside.”
The “outside” always owns the key and we’re getting tons of practice waiting for the outside to unlock something…anything in 2020. We wait and hope. For a vaccine. For inauguration. For truth. For justice. But many of us, all too often prominent Christians, don’t wait well in the dark. We do this or that, yet repeatedly collapse in the smallest fundamentals—the negligible noble things. Millions, following shameful leaders, will not mask, name the new President, acknowledge a fair election, or remember rightness in the name of 2020’s murdered Black neighbors. Such essential noble acts, perhaps negligible for the individual, become patterns of behavior that at scale—when millions of people do them or refuse to do them—shift society’s expressed values and create space for more nobility, or more evil.
So in 2020 we learn to wait in a darkness awash with anticipation and hopelessness at the same time; like a prison cell that may or may not open, and even if it does, may lead to the gallows. The key holders are a wild card. Who knows? These are the rules on earth.
The rules are different here. Magnificent even. God’s rules as they are in heaven. It’s like a prison cell in the waiting, but how we wait and who we wait for marks the difference.
Advent enters from the outside too of course. But in God’s economy of hide and seek/lost and found—anticipation outflanks the darkness. Why? God holds the key, and though He too is wild—He shows up, all the time. We wait not for ourselves and possible rescue, but for Him. HE is rescue certain. And like my son in the closet, we rely on him knowing where we are, showing up, opening the door, and lighting the darkness. It’s Advent 2020 friends, and He still makes the rules.
Hide and seek with a four-year-old is the best (it’s only as we get old and serious that we play as if the object is to remain hidden. sigh…that’s another blog). How could Cole be so certain of winning? He understood the object of the game. So he would wait, pulsing, willing to endure the terrors of the dark in the certainty I would find him and make things right. He always won.
He knew then what we can know this day—the object of both the childhood game and Advent is…TO BE FOUND.
Because the Christ child will certainly come. He knows where you are (we too leave a trail of noise behind us just by living). He is the door. He is the light. And in God’s rules, light always puts out the darkness.
So wait with courage—do the negligible noble things that reveal to whom you belong. Wait in certainty—there is good news in this dark year. Here it is…
You don’t need to find Advent. Even in 2020, Advent finds you.