A friend of mine (Rachael Weasley) always said, "Be an empty manger, and Christ will come." I think the challenge was being so empty, open-minded, welcoming, loving, caring, humble, and needing-of-God that we are unafraid of the anticipation and hope of the Advent season. It is my favorite time of year. Some say spring is about new growth, Easter is about rebirth, but to me, as snow starts to fall and the cold sets in, we draw warmth out of depths of God's love and that is the true gift of life.
I didn’t choose a church to attend specifically on the first Sunday of Advent. Given its importance to my faith, I probably should have. That would require me to know what I want and where I am comfortable, which I guess is the purpose of this entire journey. What I want from Advent is to feel a great amount of hope and anticipation. I want to feel excited in a way that never leaves an opportunity for disappointment. I get excited about things all the time, but there is always a chance they won’t turn out as I expected. The great thing about Advent is I can get really excited and it ALWAYS turns out to be as awesome as expected.
Westport Presbyterian is a nice church. Really, most of the churches I’ve visited have been nice. I thought the extravagant welcome at my ex-church was unique; but in reality, there are nice people all over Kansas City. It is a beautiful church that emphasizes circles and curves, a type of architecture that reminds me of unity. When I was in D.C. at a protest, Rachael asked me, “What if the Washington Monument were a circle instead of a giant…erection?” Well, this church was more about the circles.
But I have the same criticisms of it as I’ve had about so many protestant churches. The routine seems so normal and even though we just heard the news that Jesus is coming, no one seemed that different or excited. Slow-moving hymns, light the advent candle, prayer, forgiveness, the end. The sermon was about us needing the light of Christ in the world. The nation, the city, the church, personally, we all need the light. That’s true, but where’s the anticipation in your voice…we need the light…AND…THE LIGHT IT COMING!
Advent is the time of year when I feel hopeful without reason, spiritual without logic, excited without fear of disappointment. At Westport Presbyterian, I understood the importance of the light, the need of the light, but no anticipation of its arrival.
Now, I’m the first to say that church isn’t always supposed to make you comfortable. I realize that it’s not about me and making me feel all good inside about a cute little baby in a manger, but without spreading the excitement and love, how can we remind people of the reason for this hope in the first place. With advent, comes a hope for all things that otherwise seem impossible. Suffering, war, violence, racism, heterosexism, genderism, sexism, classism…When we draw close together for Advent there is hope and possibility for change. After all, if one little kid can change the lives of so many, then imagine what all of us can do.
A very good friend from Oberlin, Diana Steele, recommended this church to me. Her mother-in-law just retired as the choir director. All things considered, it was not a bad experience. I can see a lot of people finding a home there. They do an immense amount of social action, support the arts, and definitely give off family/community vibes upon entering. For me, though, the heat was missing. In one of my previous posts I referred to every sense awakening to the heat of Peace Community Church on Sunday mornings. I could feel it, taste it, see it and smell it. I felt like I was around the most comfortable and amazing campfire in the whole world, huddling close to my friends and having fun just waiting. Waiting for the arrival of something amazing.