It’s Advent, and there are only a couple of weeks before Christmas break. Personally, I couldn’t be happier about that, and not just because this means I get to leave classes behind for a couple weeks soon. Well, maybe leave them behind is not the proper phrase; post-break midterms are such lovely little things, aren’t they? Like puppies… covered in spikes.
Truly, however, what excites me about Advent this year is the opportunity to step back a moment and reflect on recent events in my life. See, so much of our attention at this time of year is focused on the hustle and bustle our society makes the season into: find all your gifts, attend all the family functions, make sure you make it to church on Christmas Eve, and God help you if you forget to pick up the eggnog for the Christmas party you’re going to. Even in our spiritual lives, we get so caught up in looking forward to Christmas, to baby Jesus, the manger, angel choirs, and “wise men” who apparently have no idea how to buy gifts for infants (Honestly, myrrh? I think Mary at least would have appreciated some extra clothes for the kid, gentlemen.), we forget that Advent itself is a time of waiting and preparation for the arrival of a Savior who works in unexpected ways on behalf of unexpected people. We forget that He will flip tables in the temple, dine with the unclean and unfaithful, and dismantle the arguments of the pious.
As I hold up this reality of the Savior whose arrival I anticipate alongside my time here at PTS so far, I’ve come to a pleasant realization. Yes, I’m taking classes and working toward a degree, but I’m not really here to take classes. I’m not even here to succeed, really. Those are all things I have to do if I’m going to become ordained and work in the Church, but it’s not the deep reason for my being here. I’m here because I’m looking for the Savior, and hoping to get close enough through all my stumbling (and I’m pretty clumsy, ask my friends) to then point Him out to others. Likewise, I’m preparing myself in this time not to simply regurgitate the facts I’ve been fed in my classes here, but for a life in community with the poor, the suffering, and the heartbroken as we all wait for Christ together. PTS has been helpful in that regard, but true to God’s methods as I’ve seen them play out in my life so far, it hasn’t been through the channels I (or in all likelihood my teachers) expected. I’ve made new friends, each of us with our unique struggles and hearts that beat to unique rhythms; I’ve found myself in a new community at Upper Room Church in Squirrel Hill, with people and challenges I never expected to encounter. Most of all, I’ve been built up, broken down, and rebuilt into a person both wholly new and strangely familiar through a cocktail of pain, joy, and discovery that only God could make work. My relationship with the school through all of this has had more in common with that of Homer and Bart Simpson (minus the choking) than the pastoral images in my theology books, but truly I would expect no less as we wrestle together about what it means to seek Christ and work alongside Him.
So as Advent continues and Christmas approaches, I wish you all fruitful reflections as you watch and wait for the movements of the coming Savior in your own lives, and if you’ll excuse me, I’m sure Dr. Burgess is wondering why I’m writing this instead of the paper that’s due before break.
Written by Matt Morris, Junior M.Div. Student