It’s Advent again, our annual season of hope and re-commitment. We will read the Advent stories, sing the Advent songs, and listen to the Advent Scriptures. The pre-Christmas frenzy has officially begun even though merchants have long ago swung into holiday mode. Out will come our holiday decorations as we prepare for another Christmas season. Our crib scene will be placed in its traditional place with all its occupants in their proper places. During these Advent days, may we pause and smile as we pass our stable, reflecting upon the wondrous love that allowed God to send his Son among us to share our humanity.
Our stable scene is a reminder that Jesus came among us as an infant but does little to remind us of his constant presence in our lives today or of his future coming again. Theologian Karl Rahner explained that the Liturgy of the Advent season “unites the past, that is the Old Testament longing for the coming of salvation through the Messiah; his presence, that is the salvation that is now taking place in the world, but which is still hidden from us, and the future, that is the salvation which will be unveiled with the transformation of the world at the end of time.” During this Advent season may we become more aware of the presence of Jesus among us.
Celebrating Jesus’ birth is something we do well. During Advent, our world is full of crib scenes from small inexpensive figures placed in our homes, to life-sized figures adorning yards and parks, well-lit for all to see. Recognizing the presence of Jesus in our day-to-day lives is not always so easy. Often, we are not aware of his presence, as days and weeks slip by without noticing the lost encounters and missed opportunities to recognize him. Yet at other times, our awareness becomes fine-tuned, and we see glimpses of him within the everyday routines of our lives.
We seem to have the most difficulty dealing with Jesus’ future coming. For most of our lives, that issue is given little focus. Our death and the end-of-the-world are troublesome issues, stuff that we quickly push from our minds. Yet, at every Eucharist, we are reminded that, ”Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again,” but we soon forget. Then, along comes another Advent, and another chance to remember and redirect our lives.
Each Advent we hear again the same story, but maybe this time listening anew, and waiting more patiently and more prayerfully. Our Gospel reminds us to “Watch!” This Advent may we seek out the divine within the ordinary events of these hectic pre-Christmas days, so that we awaken to the God in our midst in spite of our busy schedules. Finally, when we are fully awake, may we understand how radically different our world must become. As people of faith, we remember that the hidden Lord is among us, unsung, unannounced, unreported, but here. Because of our acts of forgiveness, our compassion, and our well-lived lives, we show an anxious people that the Lord really has come. This Advent, if there is any hope of finding him, let him be seen within us!
----Deacon Wilson Shierk