Yesterday, I saw this great meme that said, “The only thing to fear is … missing out.” FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” entered our lexicon in 2013, but is an age-old issue. It’s the suspicion that something better is happening somewhere else without us. We are missing out. FOMO is fueled by comparing ourselves to others; FOMO is discontent. FOMO is the feeling that we should be somewhere other than where we are, or someone other than who we are. FOMO makes us feel fractured.
FOMO is the opposite of peace, one of the four main themes of the Christian celebration of Advent. If we are going to experience peace in our lives and in our world, we must face and conquer our fear of missing out.
Peace is a small word with a huge range of meanings. It is used almost 400 times in the Bible. In Old Testament Hebrew, the word is “shalom,” which means: security, flourishing, well-being, and especially wholeness. In New Testament Greek, the word is “eirene,” which comes from a root that means to tie something together into a whole.
When we have peace, we are whole, all things are joined together as they should be. When we have peace, we have no sense of scarcity. We lack nothing. When we have peace, we are not afraid that we are missing out on something better than what we have. We do not feel fractured or pulled in different directions. When we have peace, we are focused.
But how? How do we experience peace? Advent teaches us how. Advent is a season of waiting. Not waiting with whining and self-pity, nor with constant time-checking and annoyance. Advent is waiting in a posture of hope, peace, joy and love. Those are not just four nice words about the baby Jesus. They are a process that leads us to spiritual maturity.
First, hope. Hope is not wishful thinking or the desire that something good might happen. Christian hope is not if; it is when. One of my favorite theologians says that Christian hope is “the expectation of a good future that is awakened through God’s promise and supported by trust in God.” Hope is a deliberate choice to trust that as Dr. King said, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” All of creation is on God’s trajectory towards restoration, with each one of us and all of us having a role to play.
Once we are grounded in hope, we begin to experience God’s peace/wholeness. When we trust that we have a role to play in God’s restoration of all things, we gain a perspective larger than our current circumstances. Everything we experience becomes an opportunity for redemption. There is no such thing as our life going “off track,” because God is able to use any bad thing that happens to us. We lack nothing. We are whole. We are at peace. But it’s not easy.
This is why we practice Advent, waiting with hope, peace, joy and love. God is writing a very long story. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is, “Wait. I’m not done yet.” The invitation is to ground ourselves in the hope of God’s plan for restoration, and then find peace as we trust that we are already whole, even while we are still waiting. No matter what we are experiencing, we are not missing out. There is nowhere else that we are supposed to be. We may be challenged to live in the mystery of suffering, and we don’t know for how long. But that’s why Advent is not an indefinite season. Advent has an end, and at the end is Jesus, the one who came to accompany us in our suffering, to be our companion in confusion. Unto us a child is born, and he is the Prince of Peace.
Rev. Beth Gedert is the pastor of Zion United Church of Christ, 51 W. Central Ave., Delaware. For more information, visit www.uccdelaware.com.