Praying Advent as Parents
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.
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 them.
When 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 parents, too.
Entering 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 time and 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,
Celebrating 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.