Advent is the season of arrival; the anticipation of the coming of God. We count down on the Advent Wreath each Sunday as we light another candle and move closer to Christmas, to the great arrival of God all those years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. We celebrate the fact that our God is not a God who stays far off, is only a dream or an empty promise. No, our God is a God who comes. He advents with His people. He arrives and His arrival changes things.

Every now and then the duties of the pastoral vocation overwhelm me. Sometimes I find being a pastor is painful and leaves me restless and unsatisfied. It usually is not the preaching and teaching which delivers the struggle. It is also not necessarily the handing over of the of the gifts, the administration of the Sacraments, that are a problem. No, the issue is usually rooted in what the older theologians discussed under the title of Seelsorge, an old German word meaning the, “care of souls.”

I had a counselling session last week. During this particular meeting, the conversation eventually came to the world being an awful, fallen place. The world sucks. After we finish our session, my counselor typically walks me to the door of the facility we meet in – that way he can see if his next counselee has arrived yet. This time, as he did so, we continued the conversation and, eventually, he gave me a simple, yet profound saying to sum up what we as human beings need to do, especially as Christians: Embrace the suck.

A few years ago, I read a fascinating and somewhat controversial book called The Churching of America, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. In it the authors examined and brought to light the history of religion in America by arguing it works as a free market economy, an economy in which there are winners and losers. The authors were not pastors or theologians, but professors of sociology and they tackled the issue as sociologists. They do not speak much about orthodoxy or heterodoxy or faithful confessions but use the language of economics.