A parenthesis is a break in the flow of a thought, an interval, or a time between two events. We experience many events in life that embody this idea of waiting either in anticipation or in dread. Life transitions are often parenthetical experiences for us.
We anticipate with a sense of joy holidays, school graduations, marriages, births, and new jobs. We tend to be emotionally torn as we wait for deaths, overseas military assignments, divorces, and (sometimes) new jobs.
Our family experienced such a time of waiting when my grandson Benjamin was dying of cancer 18 years ago. As we prepared for Christmas, our little grandson was in the last months of his life. The joy of the coming of the Lord was mixed with preparing for the end of Benjamin’s life.
Advent is celebrated by Christians as a time of waiting and anticipation for the coming of Messiah. His coming had been promised to the Hebrew people for centuries so their wait was lengthy and often troubled. As we observe Advent now, we know that God’s promise was fulfilled, but perhaps not in the way that the Jews had imagined. The fulfillment of the promise resulted in both hope and conflict.
I must admit that I observe Advent with mixed feelings due to that Christmas 18 years ago which gave me a new perspective on life and death. We rejoice that Christ as come as Immanuel, God with us, but we know the rest of the story as well. As the baby becomes a man and accepts the mission to which God has called him, he will encounter resistance and hostility that will lead to his crucifixion.
The joy of Advent is always tempered with the awareness of coming sacrifice. Life has both good and bad passages. I am thankful that the God who walked with Jesus through the good times and the bad continues to walk with us through the parentheses of life.