The Advent Paradox

The Advent Paradox

The Advent Paradox

A renowned teacher and activist Parker Palmer writes in his excellent little book The Promise of Paradox, “The way we respond to contradiction is pivotal to our spiritual lives.” Paradox requires “both/and” instead of “either/or” thinking. One dictionary defines paradox as “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.” The word paradox comes from the Greek para, “contrary to” and dokein, “to think, seem, or appear.”

Prof. Michal Beth Dinkler from Yale Divinity School points out that the Gospels are full of paradox. In Luke, for example, the infant Jesus is more than a baby born in a manger. He’s also “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (2:11).Both infant and Savior. Jesus teaches “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33). Both losing one’s life and keeping it.  On a theological level, Christians affirm paradox all the time: Jesus’ crucifixion led both to death and to new life. Jesus was both fully God and fully human.

This season of Advent that we are entering into is also a time of paradox. While we prepare to celebrate that Christ has been born into our world and God’s salvation is present now, we are mindful that things are still not perfect.  There is still much struggle and suffering in our world. Part of Advent, then, is looking for Christ to come again to set things right and bring God’s reign of peace to our world.  Advent is both a time of the “now” and the “not yet.”

It is not always easy living in this in-between of Advent where we know something great is coming, but it has not arrived yet.  In between times can be exciting, but they can also be stressful.  Think of a couple who is engaged, but not yet married, a woman who is pregnant, but the baby is not yet born, a job interview that has gone well, but the job offer has not yet come, a doctor who has given hopeful words, but the test results have not yet come back.

How do we deal with these in-between times?  Often they are best endured when someone is waiting with us—someone with whom we can share both the anticipation and the anxiety.  So as we wait in this time of Advent—as we both celebrate salvation come down and yet still hope for healing to be fulfilled, may we find comfort in knowing there is a Holy Spirit, an advocate, a counselor, who walks alongside and waits with us.

-Pastor Erik Goehner