December 1, 2013

And so a new Church Year is upon us, and the liturgical countdown to Christmas has begun. I’ve always loved the season of Advent, its color of purple, and its incurable sense of quiet and earnest hope when all around us seems so rushed, harried, and commercialized. Amidst all this craziness, Advent asks us to take a deep breath and contemplate God’s place in the world around us and in our lives.

Lots of sermons written for this season speak of Messianic expectation and the need for preparing one’s self for inviting the Christ Child anew into our world with Christmas. But what, exactly, does that mean for us in practical terms? After all, Isaiah’s prophecies to Israel were made during a time when there was very little for anyone in the dispersed tribes of Israel to hang their hats on beyond simple faith. Same holds true today: one might well ask how relative the message of Advent is to a world two thousand years after God became human and died an ugly, anonymous death on the Cross? After all, the blights on the human condition then are the same as today: wars, poverty, strife, conflict, and all sorts of crappy stuff in spades.

But here’s the thing: just as we cannot see the impact our lives have had on this world and those around us, the same holds true in that we cannot see the full work of God at work in the lives of those and the world around us. The truth is, we all tend to have blinders on as our personal lives flitter from one priority or crisis to another. We’re so focused on our life “to do” lists that we spend precious little time contemplating the various ways our lives interact with others and whether those interactions have been positive or negative. And the same holds true not just with others but with God’s creation. What is our footprint on this earth we inhabit? Has it been positive or negative, or does it really matter?

And this is where the spirit of Advent comes in, for, no matter how you slice it, Advent is all about our perception of God at work in the world. Does God exist? Where and how is God at work? What do we see of God in others? What do we want to see but don’t? Advent’s message of longing and expectation, and how to “prepare the way of the Lord” are eternal in nature, for Advent in and of itself doesn’t provide us with the answers, it only tells us that in asking these questions we are not, nor have we ever been, alone. This homily by Fr. Charles Irvin, I think, strikes the right chord. Here’s a key bit I found particularly interesting:

We often speak of Advent as being a season of time in which we prepare for the Lord’s coming into our lives. Perhaps we should see it as a season of heightened awareness, for the truth is that we should be looking for God already at work in our lives every day. God is always offering Himself to us. We, however, are not always responding because we’re not paying attention. Advent is a time to conscientiously, deliberately, and with awareness respond to His offer of Himself to us. We have to “see the Light,” so to speak.

It’s all a matter of seeing eternity in every season of our lives. It’s all a matter of paying attention to God’s presence to us in our lives as children, as teens, as young adults, in our middle age, and in the final seasons of our lives when we mirror the time when the leaves fall from their branches and the world goes to sleep under a blanket of snow. In each of those seasons of our lives God’s ever-present and everlasting love can break in upon us. We all, each one of us, feel it to be unexpected. But what is so unexpected about it? Why should we be surprised? God is always calling us to climb to the top of the mountain, look for His coming, and take a look over the broad range of our lives.

Countless sermons this season will talk about the need for us to consider what we need to do in our lives to welcome the Christ Child anew come Christmas, but the fact is we live our lives in a perpetual Advent where God is at work within us – whether we know it or like it or not – and constantly knocking on the door of our hearts and souls to prepare Christ’s way into our lives more fully. For some it’s just His toe in the door, for others we see an arm or an elbow. Still others refuse to answer the door or perhaps don’t even hear anyone knocking. But Advent reminds us God is with us and has always been there in countless ways we will never know. As we prepare for Christmas and the celebration of the Incarnation of Our Lord, Advent asks us to take a few minutes out of our busy lives to reflect on the way God has been at work in our lives and in the world around us, in ways we might otherwise simply be too preoccupied to see.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 02:38 | Comments (0)
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