Creighton University's Online Ministries
A friend recently said, “I don't get into Advent. I'm way too defended for Advent.”
It was an incredibly honest moment of self-awareness. Being defended personally is often a primary reason why we don't let religious experience inside of us. It's simple: our defenses are there for a reason- to protect us from being hurt - and while shielding us from being “open” and “vulnerable” in a negative way, they also close the door to a freeing, healing and transforming experience, like Advent.
There are many ways in which we defend or protect ourselves. There are many reasons why we do it. Most commonly we insulate ourselves from being hurt, after we've been hurt. We simply don't want to be hurt again. Sometimes it is as simple as “keeping my guard up.” Sometimes I develop an impenetrable barrier to having my feelings stirred up. Often, while I'm holding onto grief or some deep sadness, resentment or sorrow, it is just too difficult to let my feelings be opened up. Unfortunately, at times, the hurt is so deep, and has been unhealed so long, I've given in to cynicism or jaded negativity or a slowly burning anger inside and become hyper judgmental at the failings of others. At some very bad state of defensiveness, I'll push away even those who are trying to love me.
All of these traumas and states of inner disturbances and defenses can make entering into Advent very, very difficult. So, what do we do, if we find ourselves identifying with this defensiveness in any way? Is there hope? There is always hope! This is a season designed by our God to offer hope. Images from Isaiah, the prophet, offer hope to a people in the darkness and gloom of political captivity in Babylon. It is all language that offers us hope to believe that the coming of Jesus into our world is all about our personal liberation from whatever captivity we are in, whatever darkness or discouragement envelops us.
If we can read this prophetic announcement with an open enough heart to hear it as addressed to our personal situation, then Advent has begun in us. It is simple. It involves imagining that God can do this. We don't need to know how, to rationally figure it out, to begin to have evidence, or figure out how those who hurt us will pay for what they did. All we have to do is listen to how “good news” sounds in our ears. If a tiny bit of our hearts longs for this to be true, if even one image here or one phrase stirs something in us, then we are letting our defenses down enough to let the Holy Spirit in. And, God's Spirit can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
If we can put down our guard enough to imagine that this season - these four weeks - could help us know God's love for us more deeply, could help us hear about the first coming of our Lord into this world, so that we can be opened to accept his coming into our hearts these days, then grace has entered in beyond the defenses and Advent has begun in us. Read these words slowly. If possible, begin by praying a simple prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus, Come and touch my heart. Come and be with me during Advent. Let your Word make me defense-less before your love.”
If this simple listening to the Word of God let some light shine in our hearts, then we can take the risk, open the door even farther and let the Light stream in. The resources on this site, the Daily Advent Prayer will offer a great help for the journey ahead. Most of all, keep composing real prayers in words that come from our pain or our fear or even our doubt. Honestly opening our hearts to the Lord, who knows us better than we know ourselves, brings about communion and a growing sense of being known, accepted and loved. Then, the defenses that protect us and also keep us captive, will allow grace to enter and bring new life.
“Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”