It is a special privilege and a tremendous challenge being a
parent and Advent is a wonderful season to reflect upon this mystery.
Because it is a season of hope, we can bring our children into our
Advent prayer, holding them up to the Lord in love and in trust -
in the loving hope that only faith can give.
on our hopes.
One powerful Advent
exercise which we can enter into as parents is to reflect, with our
Lord, what it is we hope for in our deep love for our children. Sometimes,
it helps to get out a piece of paper and put words down on paper which
express our hopes and desires. What is it legitimate to hope for?
If we do it before the Lord, and with the Lord, we'll hope for the
right things. We won't be expressing a hope that our children win
the lottery. Before the Lord we'll get in touch with our deep desire
that our children be well and be protected from harm. We will look
upon each child, there in the presence of the Lord, and wish that
they grow spiritually, having a relationship with God that sustains
our children are little, it is said that we have a thousand joys and
a thousand worries. As our children get older, and leave the envelope
of our care more and more, our concerns grow. And when our children
go through phases of rebellion and rejection of our love and what
we ask of them, we feel the pain of love. If our children become adults
and adopt values and a life style that is different from our hopes
and dreams for them, we can tend to blame ourselves or we can be tempted
to judge or even badger them. If their relationships don't go well,
or end up in divorce, it can be as if our hearts are broken, too.
And, if our adult children struggle financially or become chemically
addicted or seriously ill in any way, these are our struggles, as
into the Season of Longing in Hope.
The readings for the
first part of Advent, come from the Prophet Isaiah. They are full
of wonderful promises of a time in which Hope will be restored. Terrible
darkness and discouragement will be dispelled. Tremendous obstacles
to freedom and reunion will be overcome - the mountains will be leveled
and the valleys will be filled in, while there will be a highway to
our God, where there had only been desert. In the midst of conflict
and division, there will be an incredible peace, with the lion lying
down with the lamb. These are not just historical situations at the
time of Isaiah. These prophesies are meant to restore Hope in us,
in our time, in our struggles. As Christians, baptized into Jesus,
all of these promises take on a new meaning. We have come to believe
that God dealt with all sin and with all death through the redemptive
coming of Jesus to live our life and to die and rise to new life -
as the "first fruit" of the new life given to us.
Does this mean that we are
just left to hoping that our children will be saved, at the end of
experience God's love and mercy, in the end? No. Though that is a
wonderful consolation to ask for, we can ask for more, even now. Our
faith allows us to hope that God's grace can touch the lives of those
we love on earth. We can confidently pray in such a way that our desire
becomes a longing in Hope. We can say,
be with my children. Please relieve their suffering. Please give
them deeper faith in you. Let them know you are with them. Open
their hearts and their lives to see in the practice of their faith
a way to you and a way to generously giving their lives to others.
I so long that they raise their children in faith, Lord. Protect
my grandchildren and help them to know your love. I ask all of this,
with great longing, in faith, in trust, in Advent Hope."
Each of us will have our own version of this
kind of prayer. It can transform our Advent as parents. It can help
us prepare for Christmas. The second part of Advent takes us into
the mystery of how our God came to us in Jesus. The story of faith
filled parents, like Zachary and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, is a
story that can restore our Hope in relying on God's promises. Our
longing for God's graces for our children will help us enter into
Christmas in a faith filled way, trusting in Hope.
Christmas with Faith and Hope
Too often, Christmas
is a difficult time. If there are family tensions at all, they seem
to come out at this time.
Yet, if our Advent is full of prayer, preparing for Christmas, we
will more likely be prepared to be full of compassion and joy at Christmas.
How will this make a difference?
If our trust is in
God, if we have prayed for those we love, and for those with whom
we have a difficult time, we will be better able to be with them or
not be with them with greater compassion and peace, with greater love.
We will be less tempted to judge and less disturbed by anxiety and
anger. And, our loved ones will experience the difference in us. They
will more likely see our faith and be touched by it. Even without
words, we can be evangelists of the Good News we will be gathering
to celebrate. Living and longing in hope can be powerfully transformative.
We see the promises of our God coming to life when there's a little
more light, a little more hope, when pathways are open, and there
is a peace and joy at Christmas. It will all be the gift of our God
who came to us that we might have hope, especially that parents might
have hope that God's love and mercy is even greater than our own.