“It might be easy to run away to a monastery, away from the commercialization, the hectic hustle, the demanding family responsibilities of Christmas-time. Then we would have a holy Christmas. But we would forget the lesson of the Incarnation, of the enfleshing of God—the lesson that we who are followers of Jesus do not run from the secular; rather we try to transform it. It is our mission to make holy the secular aspects of Christmas just as the early Christians baptized the Christmas tree. And we do this by being holy people—kind, patient, generous, loving, laughing people—no matter how maddening is the Christmas rush…” Andrew Greeley
I really do love the seasons of Advent and Christmas. This year it has been so busy that Advent has gone by way too fast. Advent which begins four Sundays before Christmas is the season of preparation, it is the season for the Christian of the promise of Christ, his coming in the flesh or “Incarnation” being born of Mary and also his coming at the consummation when as the Creed says “He shall come again….”
Advent is a time which has pretty much been stomped all over by the religion of commercialism and its high holy day of Black Friday which falls the Friday before Advent begins. However it is really important if one wants to comprehend the full religious significance of Christmas. It helps the Christian place Christmas in its appropriate context, not as “Jesus’ Birthday party” where we wear a little button that says “Happy Birthday Jesus” but that day where God became human as Paul wrote so eloquently:
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Gal. 4:4-7)
In the fullness of time…Advent helps point us to that time when God humbled himself to become a human being. It is the time where in an ideal world we would slow down just a bit and begin to prepare ourselves for his coming. However our culture often with the blessing of Christians and the Church has eliminated that time of reflection. It is a time where God not only makes us his children but his brothers and sisters and I think even more importantly friends.
Advent as a season is a period of patient expectation, a season of hope in the midst of despair. It is the message that God still cares and that what we wait for is not far off, the nativity of Emmanuel, God with us which is expressed so well in my favorite hymn of the season O Come O Come Emmanuel
Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
The Irish singer Enya has a wonderful version of this song which I have placed the link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPHh3nMMu-I&feature=share
German pastor, theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison in 1943
that “A prison cell like this is a good analogy for Advent: one waits, hopes, does this or that—ultimately negligible things—the door is locked and can only be opened from the outside.”
This year has been like brutal prison for many people and nations in the world. Wars, natural disasters, economic problems and political instability have caused much suffering. Man’s inhumanity to man has been demonstrated time and time again by terrorists, criminals and repressive governments. Our lack of control over nature as was shown in Fukishima Japan when a massive Earthquake and Tsunami destroyed cities and a nuclear power plant killing thousands. At the same time we have seen the best people rising to meet disaster and persecution, poverty and unrest with courage, faith and mercy motivated by love in the face of death. In spite of all, love still triumphs.
The Advent season which is now drawing to an end leads us to the hope of the God who chooses to be with us. Tomorrow evening we celebrate when “the Word was made flesh and we beheld his glory.” It is a time when the world is reminded even in the most secular ways that God choses to be with us in the babe born in a dingy stable in a town that few cared about. In that humble beginning God draws near to us and his creation.
It is a time to rejoice for Jesus the Christ is born.