30 November 2008

Welcoming Advent

How can it possibly be Advent again? The beginning of another liturgical year, at least in churches that think in that cyclical, rhythmic way. The beginning of a brief, intentional time of preparation in advance of the feast of the nativity, to the Christmas celebration. Advent is a quiet time for deep introspection, for noticing interior movement, the point being, of course, that we are being made ready to receive what God has to offer.

What I know for myself more strongly with each minute and day is that I need solitude and discipline to discern what it is to which I am I being invited. What there might be for me to do or to be. To borrow Advent’s language, what it is to which I am being invited to give life. It seems the whole pregnancy/giving birth concept belongs not to Mary alone.

For non-Christians and for Christians as well, Christmas is not so much a religious feast as it is a cultural event. In reality, Christmas is an economic phenomenon, that truth made plain in a raw way on black Friday just passed with the death of a Long Island NY Wal-Mart employee, trampled by before-dawn shoppers intent to get their hands on “door buster” deals: $28.00 vacuum cleaners, $69.00 digital cameras, $379.00 laptops. The disconnect between a sweet celebration of God-come-to-earth and humanity’s focus seems fairly complete, shoppers distraught not at the under-foot death in their midst the day after Thanksgiving, but at having to leave the store during its temporary closure.

With that harrowing scene marking Advent’s arrival I cannot help but think that Advent, taken to heart if only in a minimal way, might be a good and beneficial thing, even for those not drawn to organized religion. The invitation to measuring one’s choices and activities in a place of peacefulness might make for a bit of redirection.

The season of Advent reminds me that existence itself is an open-ended prospect. I can wait and observe fretfully and critically or I can wait and observe hopefully and with an air of expectation.

Advent. I welcome it today, glad the cycle has brought it back around.