An Advent Pondering
It is Advent again and twenty-three days from this very day will be Christmas. These days we are invited to be faithfully, and not fearfully, watchful.
We do not like waiting and so it becomes Christmas before Advent has a chance to be a grace. To help us grow in the enjoyment of Advent I desire to offer holy hints for living these days of longing.
We could experience our being alone, or left out, or even being lost, as an Advent grace. We could remain peaceful while waiting for a phone call or arrival of some person or news.
If we do not pray with the graces which Advent offers in the experiences of emptiness, then, I am afraid, Christmas will be a celebration of disappointing emptiness.
Jeremiah is under guard by the Jewish leaders. He has been prophesying about the calamities to befall Judah and Israel. In the midst of this darkness, what we hear in the First Reading continues a more hopeful promise God has made through Jeremiah to Israel. Jerusalem will be a wasteland and no man nor beast shall dwell therein. What we hear is an advent of life and prosperity. There will be joy, marriages, singing and thanksgiving sacrifices in the temple and new life in the days to come. Remember, Jerusalem has been invaded by the “pagans” while Israel is banished from their God-promised land into captivity.
Four weeks ago in the more eastern parts of The United States, days of weather-warnings preceded Hurricane Sandy. Days before its arrival, life changed. Schools, businesses, whole cities shut down, even Wall Street! Rain, snow, winds and high ocean waves electrified the coast-landers into fight and flight. Some doubted and tried to live through it all. Some didn’t believe it would be as bad as predicted.
Jeremiah had made similar predictions of calamities befalling Israel, because of their infidelities in their worship and their living according to the Law. Jesus has some warnings Himself which sound worse than those for Sandy.
The Gospel is difficult to hear and understand. The city of Jerusalem is central to the religious sense of the people. Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the total collapse of the city which has been the symbol of God’s eternal fidelity. For the city to fall is similar to the sky falling and all natural orderliness being disturbed. The stability of the temple as well as the city itself is similar to the order of the sun and moon, the seas and normal living. As with the prophesy we hear in the First Reading, the Pagans or more precisely, the foreigners will disturb this order by violating the city. Amid all this turbulence, Jesus encourages His disciples to stand firm, because He is the “shoot of David” who will also appear and reestablish order and recovery of identity.
Jesus offers us the encouragement to stand firm against the disorders and tribulations and temptations which lead to disorder. The Man of Justice and Integrity is always coming into the disorderliness of our personal, cultural, and global worlds. It is attractive to spend time interpreting natural and astronomical signs of the coming of the end. Jesus is always inviting us to be attentive to our own disattractions, disorders, disidentities and thereby watch or be alert to the ways the Son of Man comes to bring back our own sense of integrity.
The next two Sundays of Advent will bring John the Baptist onto the stage of preparation. We will hear his callings. Today we are invited to begin preparing for the coming into our lives of a Savior. To do this we are called to check up on the disorders within and around us to which Jesus is constantly arriving. I write the following with some care, based on experience. We do not really want a Savior! We want an approver. We do not want a negative judge whom we fear, but an approving and benevolent assessor. Most Christians, it seems to me on this first Sunday of Advent, want to sweep away their pasts or presents and hope that the God of Vengeance doesn’t see the carpet under which have been swept the disorders. A second group of Christians wants to pretend that the disorders or need for integrity do not exist and they stay alert to their denials. A third group spends their lives obsessed with their doing nothing but the right and correct things so that a savior for them is quite unnecessary.
The Savior has come, is coming and will always come. The signs of disorder are all around and within us. Jesus was not born in stableish-poverty, only because there was no room in the inn. That poverty is ours and He is always being born anew there, but only if we stay alert to the signs of disorder within us. I had a wonderful African/American friend who lived his whole life in the back-waters of southwest Louisiana in southern United States. He told me once, with great faith and enthusiasm, that if God did not spend all his time forgiving us, God wouldn’t have anything to do all day. Mr. Lienell trusted his being found, forgiven and freed. He had lived long years in fear of the “white man” and also of the “white God”, but near his last days, he knew racial freedom and especially faith-freedom. His honesty about his life allowed him to be more honest about Jesus’ life.
We are not encouraged to spend time interpreting the signs around us concerning the end of time. We are encouraged to experience the signs within us which indicate disorder and kneel there in the poverty of our truth which will be come-to by the richness of His coming always and again. We as believers are waiting for the new beginning rather than an ending.
“The Lord will shower his gifts, and our land will yield its fruit.” Ps. 85, 13
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