Hallo again to all.
Arguments about blue, pink, and purple
Increased church attendance
Nativity story re-enactments by children
Wonderful hymns we sing but a few times a year
Such things are glowing reminders of childhood pre-Christmas observance for us, and their return every year makes it possible for us to experience something of our childhood delight and anticipation again as adults, who still wait for the Holy Child. Advent is indeed a season of joy and hope when its rituals fit in positive ways in the rhythms of our lives.
But what about the multitude for whom the lovely things about Advent have never felt meaningful in the first place? What about friends we know who have lost loved ones in December, and so often return to a time of hidden mourning when so much of the world around them is proclaiming its joy? What about our brothers and sisters in prison? (Well over two million Americans, for example, are spending Advent in prison.) What about those of us for whom the obligatory gift-purchasing of Advent turns it into a season of deep financial stress? What about the gravely sick? What about the lonely—whether those who live alone and not by choice, or those whose loneliness is invisible? What about 'those who work, and watch and weep this night' throughout the world? What about the many who say they 'hate Christmas,' when in fact they mean they hate the commercial-noisy-shallow-faux Christmas that has been substituted for Advent?
How can we proclaim Advent in a way that meets the need of each human soul, and how can we do so in a way that excludes no one?
We can do this, we think, by realizing that this is really the season the Church has given precisely for this proclamation to each person without distinction: God is near you. Advent is when God comes to be with us in our longing, in our tears, in our anxiety, in our mourning, in our incarceration, in our poverty, in our illness, in our hidden loneliness, and even in our hatred of Christmas. God is near, and God is coming toward us to be with us.
These four weeks of sacred waiting are hard for those who have cheerful anticipation, just as they are hard for anyone who endures them with any difficulty. The truth written into them over two thousand years—and, we believe, for thousands of years before Bethlehem, too—is that God will join us in the dirtiest and coldest room of our house, in the worst of circumstances, in the most difficult of moments in history, and that he will cry there in the moment of his birth. He will cry because that is what babies do when they take their first breaths, but he will cry, too, because in his tears we can see and hear all of our own tears, and he can see and hear all of ours.
See you next week.
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