Advent Plays the Blues

They call it stormy Monday/but Tuesday’s just as bad
Wednesday is worse/and Thursday’s oh so sad.

I am a dabbler in popular music genres, but something has always grabbed me about the blues. The Blues emerge from the Black experience of oppression and discrimination. But the repetition, the expressive “blue” notes, the story telling are popular because they communicate something fundamental about the human experience. Blues music contrasts the world as it is, and the world as it should be. It expresses the pain at how far the two are apart, and the longing for something better.

It seems to me that the blues are particularly well suited to the spirituality of Advent. Advent is not, after all, pre-Christmas; instead of tinsel and trees, we consider the end of the world. Instead of parties and presents, we hear about John’s baptism of repentance. Throughout the weeks of Advent, we confront the realities of a world that hungers for peace, and yet cannot seem to get there; a world that longs for connection, and yet still sits in lonely darkness; a world that yearns for justice, but that struggles to break free of entrenched interests.

The ancient Advent prayer maranatha! sums up our longing: maranathaI – Come Lord Jesus. We hear it in our song today: O Come O Come Emmanuel. Come and fill our hearts with your peace. Come, prepare the way.

Our longing is a product of living in the discomfort of the in between times: in between when Jesus came to show us God’s ways and the day when he returns to make real the promises of peace, mercy, and justice.

But like singing the Blues, when we express our longing, it leads to hope. That hope is summed up in the second lesson from First Thessalonians, as St Paul writes: May your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

Jesus has come among us, and he will come again. As we struggle to live lives of mercy and peace, it is God’s faithfulness that brings about a sure conclusion. We can hope and trust in the Lord to turn our Advent blues longing into the joy of the world as it should be, the joy of a world made whole in Christ.

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