Saturday, December 8, 2012

More Thoughts about Advent--Advent in 3D

            Last week I shared with you my thoughts about Advent as a season in which we focus our desires, ultimately towards our deepest desire, the desire for God. The Church guides us on this journey of desire by taking us through three dimensions in three time zones. As important as it is to prepare our selves spiritually for Christmas that is only one aspect of Advent, one "dimension" if you will.

            Interestingly enough the first dimension is the future.  At the beginning of Advent we look to the end times.  On the First Sunday we are presented with apocalyptic literature with its frightening images of earthquakes and wars.  In spite of these scary scenarios we need to understand that this genre of biblical literature, found especially in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, but also in parts of the Gospel, was meant to give hope to people who were suffering and oppressed. Is it any wonder that along with the Exodus story the African American slaves found this literature appealing?   For ourselves today who often become discouraged by the situation in the world—the war, the violence, the injustice, it reminds us that in the end God’s promises of peace, justice, healing and happiness will be realized.  At the beginning of Advent we are reminded that Christ will come again. In the liturgy, after the Our Father, we pray that we await this coming as “the blessed hope and the coming of Our Savior Jesus Christ.”  I liked the older translation even better which had us waiting “in joyful hope.”  In either case we do not await in fear and gloom.  Our waiting, however, should be an active waiting.  While there is not complete victory over the ills of this world until the Lord comes again this phase of Advent should spur us on to engage in the works of justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

            The second dimension is the past. We are presented with the figure of John the Baptist and are invited to “prepare the way of the Lord” along with him.  Beginning on December 17 Advent really turns to the past as we pray the O Antiphons and read Scriptures that proclaim God’s preparation of the world, right from the beginning and through the history of Israel for the coming of the Messiah King.  This looking into the past not only helps us to prepare for Christmas it also assures us that God is still providing for us and is leading us forward throughout our present history.

This leads us to the third dimension, the present. Advent is not complete if we only think of the great feast of the birth of Our Lord as a celebration of a past event that took place in Bethlehem a long time ago.  It is above all a time to welcome Christ into our life now, to let him be born in us. I tune in occasionally to the Busted Halo program on Sirius XM radio and check in with them on Facebook as well.  They have some nice two minute clips on various Church seasons and feasts.  The Advent clip tells us that Lenten penance is about overcoming our sins while the work of Advent is to prepare the house to welcome a special guest.  Hopefully we are preparing ourselves to welcome that guest now, allowing Christ to be born in us today.  St. Francis understood this well when he created the live Nativity scene at Greccio.  Br. Bill Short, OFM, in a talk that he delivered on an educational CD that I heard recently, points out that while there were various animals, etc. at the Greccio scene, there was no baby.  Francis wanted people to see their own hearts, their own lives, as the manger.  The image of little baby Jesus is a nice one, indeed an important one, but we cannot imprison him in Bethlehem. He desires to be born in us NOW.

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