Next Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is the season of the church year that celebrates dreams and miracles. The dry parched desert can burst into a field of poppies and forget-me-nots… Helpless little lambs can snuggle next to mighty ferocious lions… A wild scrawny man dressed in animal hides and munching on grasshoppers can cry out in the wilderness, “REPENT!” and large crowds can listen to his rantings and be dramatically changed… And a young girl, living unnoticed in Podunk, can answer “yes” to an impossible Divine Request and conceive a child who will turn her life and the whole world upside down.
The readings of Advent give testimony to all of these remarkable things. Maybe that’s one reason so many of us are drawn to them. For they tell us: What you see is not all there is. What you assume is the end, is actually the beginning. What you hear is not the final word. What you desire in the deepest recesses of your heart can still be. The incredible things God has done in the past, God is doing in the present. Right now. And God will continue to do such unbelievable things into the future–no matter how bleak, dark, or hopeless our present time may seem.
But there’s a catch. God needs us. God needs us to help make these dreams come true, to help work these impossible miracles. In the past, God needed an Isaiah to keep the vision of hope alive before God’s people. God needed a John the Baptist to proclaim the message of returning to God. And God needed a Mary to dare to say “yes” to God’s request as no other handmaid before her had ever done. So Advent is not a time to set up permanent residence in comforting readings that promise a better future. No, it is a time to partner with God wherever we may find ourselves this Advent to help bring about that better future for which we long.
How do we do this? The ways are countless. They are limited only by our imagination and resolve. Many of these ways are mighty deeds though they may seem to be pitifully small. Allow me to suggest a few.
+ The refrain for Advent is, “Come, Lord Jesus.” Perhaps we can make this refrain our mantra this Advent as we go about our day. When we first crawl out of bed in the morning, we can say, “Come, Lord Jesus into my entire day. The easy parts, the nice parts, the fun parts. But also, Lord Jesus, come into the messy parts, the unpleasant parts, the difficult parts.” And when we crawl back into bed in the evening, we can say, “Come Lord, Jesus. Give me rest and strength this night so I may partner with you again tomorrow.”
+ Choose one way to make your small world a better place. Do this by following Jesus’ way of unselfish loving. Speak kindly to others. All others. Sometimes we’re kinder to total strangers than we are to the people we live and work with every day. Sometimes we’re kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Overlook some things. Go the extra mile. Where there is little or no love, put love and there will be love.
+ Your attention is a valuable gift. Find ways you can give your attention to someone in your life who is overlooked, taken for granted, living on the margins. It can be a family member… a co-worker… a friend… a neighbor… a pastor… a store clerk… an overworked parent… a shut-in… a caregiver… Simply ask yourself: Who is in need of a gentle word, a “thank you,” a smile, a compliment, a note, a phone call, a visit, an offer to help? In English we use the phrase “pay attention.” There’s always a small price to pay when we focus our attention on someone else.
And finally, my prayer for all of us this Advent 2023 is this:
Come, Lord Jesus! May the readings of Advent bring us great consolation. May they encourage us to dream for a better world. May they strengthen us to partner with you to bring about that better world we hope for. Give us a greater appreciation for the miracle of your life of selfless loving, a miracle we can share in every day. This Advent rekindle in us the deepest longings of our hearts for love, peace, goodness, beauty, and truth. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Amen.
Did anything stand out for you in today’s reflection?
Do you like the season of Advent? Why or why not?
How do you plan on celebrating or observing Advent this year?
Our song today is the Advent/Christmas song, “Beyond the Moon and Stars” by Dan Schutte. It captures so beautifully our longing for God… for peace… for light in the darkness.
I encourage you to write a comment below. Our readers will love hearing from you! Thank you!