For the vast majority of Christians around the world, we have entered into the beautiful season of Advent. It is the time when we watch and pay attention for the arrival of Christ into our world.
Advent comes from the Latin root Adventus, meaning “coming.”
It’s hard to tell it’s not Christmas yet when you look around. Stores had their wares up since before Halloween!
But, we Christians are called to wait and watch, to prepare and pay attention. The 12 Days of Christmas are around the corner.
If we pause and think, we know why it’s important to wait.
I remember being a kid and seeing the presents wrapped under the tree. We were told my mother would know if we dared to tamper with them ahead of time. We were totally convinced she had strange mystical powers, so we waited until the time was right to open them and share in that space of wonder and excitement.
That memory points to the deeper meaning of Advent. Something unbelievable is on the horizon. Hope is possible, and reconciliation is promised. Indeed, the image of promised hope is something shared by people of all faiths around the world.
My experience of American culture is that we are not really good at waiting. We focus on fast food, faster internet service, fast returns on calls and fast cars.
Our world moves at the speed of light, so it feels so countercultural to celebrate Advent. This, my friends, is why it’s essential we do so. Our practice of faith calls us to pay attention to the ways we get swallowed in the ebb and flow of the world.
How do the pressures of greed, ambition, success, accomplishment and competition challenge the way we understand the call of Christ on our lives? How does our faith truly contest the assumptions of our society?
We need time to prepare, to make sure we are ready to receive Jesus once again: the lowly babe who was born in poverty and homelessness, the king who will come at the end of time to reconcile the whole world to himself and the Christ who comes into our hearts each moment of our lives to bring us hope in the darkest of times.
As I look around me, I see anger, frustration, pride and greed. We have divided ourselves into categories of winner and loser, friend and foe.
What would it look like to try to see the world through Christ’s eyes rather than our own?
We tend to think that, since Jesus comes among us, he somehow condones these false divisions we have put in place. I have learned that, rather than being just a time of tinsel and carols, the incarnation of Christ challenges our entire way of living and being. Christ enters into our lives, and maybe, just maybe, we can begin to see the deepest desire of our lives is to be one with him and with each other.
One of my favorite Advent carols sums it up well:
“O come, desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our king of peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel!”