On the eve of Advent: Eating batter

My sister is a Starbucks manager. This means that whenever there is a new drink on the way, or a new product about to debut, or a new treat about to show up in the pastry case, she knows about it first. And she shares her knowledge with all of us in the family. We have become Starbucks early-adopters.

And so I remember what a big deal it was when she brought with her first two sample boxes of VIA packets on a siblings trip to Door County a few summers ago – Starbucks instant coffee! How nifty!

And how indicative of our life and times. We live in a fast world. It’s not just instant coffee. It’s the Jimmy John’s commercials advertising “freaky fast delivery” and our impatience with standing in line, and even the itch to begin Black Friday earlier and earlier – even on Thanksgiving Day! – so that we can get to our shopping sooner.

This, my friends, is why we need Advent. Advent is a season of waiting, of slowing down, of delaying gratification, of living in this moment instead of rushing ahead to the next.

One of my favorite Advent reflections is entitled “Eating Batter,” written by Mike Baughman, a United Methodist Pastor. He contrasts the culture Advent with our culture of instant gratification. He says,
We live in a society dominated by instant gratification. Some attempts at the instant are trivial: instant soup, coffee, oatmeal–even Mac’n'Cheese. There’s instant messaging, text messages, twitter and cell phones to help us instantly get in touch. There are unfortunate expressions of our desire for instant gratification: abundant pornography, excessive debt and various addictions to name a few.

In a society of instant gratification, advent is a time that we embrace the awkward (anyone ever notice how awkwardly awkward is spelled?), choose the silence and worry–worry that things won’t come out right, that we’ve screwed something up. Advent is a time to worry. It is a time to wait. It is a time that is meant to make people worry–especially the powers that be! It is also a time to hope–a time to look forward to what might be. It is a time to build up expectations and make room for something new. Advent isn’t about instant. It’s about waiting.
He compares the season of Advent to baking a cake. No matter how good the ingredients, what makes the cake delicious – and edible, even! – is time. Time spent in the oven, cooking, rising, getting ready.

Part of the discipline - and frankly, part of the wonder - of Advent is the patience to which it calls us. This is a season of taking time and space to reflect upon all of our longings and to grow in faith through the practice of waiting. We count down days until Christmas, yes, but the whole Christian life is a life of Advent. We spend our lifetimes awaiting the day when Christ will come again, and with him, the new heavens and new earth that have been promised to us by God.

So I wonder what our lives would look like if we shifted our values from "instant" to "eternal." If we fill our days eating the cake batter of this world, then we are apt to spend lives filled but not fulfilled, satiated but not nourished. This is the challenge to us, my friends, both in Advent and in the wider advent of our lives: to willingly live in a state of longing for the food that does not perish, the food that is for eternal life.

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