Four years ago I provided a series on Advent that I wanted to redo, not only for those who have joined since 2016, but because I have still not seen nor heard any spiritual teachers, authors, or pastors explore this important nuance which I believe our world really needs right now. So even if you heard this four years ago, may I invite you once again into a consideration of Advent which is far too easy for us to skim over.
Anticipation is what the Advent is all about.
Those who didn’t grow up in a tradition which spelled out the Advent on a calendar or with a particular liturgy will know little of the Advent season. This is because “Advent” has been quarantined within a narrow and particular framework of Christian tradition that after centuries, still follows a liturgical calendar. Even outside of Catholicism and it’s spin-offs, the Protestant Advent, in like manner, culminates in retelling stories of wise men, a pregnant virgin and a baby in feeding trough.
I’d like to invite all comers out of a traditional rhythm and into a current experience of Advent. This applies to beginners as well as the devout. For me, there isn’t much value in retelling the story of God showing up in the world as a Jewish boy if the significance of this arrival doesn’t find itself in modern life.
How do we reconcile “A savior is born” with our present state of the world? Is “salvation” only a spiritual thing relegated to after we die? Funny how none of the Hebrew prophets saw it that way. Each saw the Advent of God as something which restored society, government, and included the marginalized.
“Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them.” (Isaiah 1:23)
The church’s main product today is the seasonal teleportation back into the ancient “manger” story with primarily an esoteric suave for our personal rather than corporate well-being. This pushes anticipation (Advent) into our eschatology (end times) where Jesus will come back one day and open up a giant can of Whoop-Ass on those who didn’t pick his team.
Is that the best we can do? Are we anticipating a savior of the cosmos or a dread warrior? Is Advent the anticipation of fear? Does the reach of salvation only go as far as one’s soul, but not one’s society?
What if the Advent of God into the world wasn’t limited to the nativity scene? What if it wasn’t about us trying to find God in history, as much as recognizing God as something other than a bearded white man, a carpenter or a bird? What if the advent of God is the advent of something “other?”
Take a moment and gaze closely into the mirror.
When we look deeply into our own eyes through a mirror we catch glimpses of our self. Over the course of our lives we have seen our body morph around that part where we see our same old soul flickering back at us. The pains and joys of life manifest themselves in increasingly deeper creases of skin as we try and shape our exterior into our “shoulds.”
There is a precise moment in the mirror when our consciousness sees beyond our face and sees who stares back? Who is that? It is you and it is so much more.
May I suggest that we are seeing something like an echo reverberating off eternity and beauty. All that we love and hate about our image reflects back the depth of what we aspire to or despair of. If we are awake, we can perceive the Eternal Moment of Advent showing up AS us.
Sorrow is our unwillingness to accept that God is reflected in what we see.
What if the advent of God in the world has always been you, me, and all others? No, we are not God. But my prayer this season is that we discover, perhaps for the first time, that we are not completely other than God either. If the baby in the manger can teach us anything, let it be that God dwells within humanity. That our bodies are temples, and we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:9), and that God has chosen to make his abode in thick darkness (1 Kings 8:12). That we embody a treasure within a jar of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). We are an ongoing incarnation. The advent of God actually relies heavily upon us being willing to step into this role, despite our many imperfections and failures.
If we can accept our deeply sacred and spiritual capacity, then our personal Advent has begun. The wider or Corporate Advent takes place every day as any act of love toward anything in the cosmos. Advent is the repair of anything we discern as broken or disorderd. Advent is the acceptance that nothing is missing from each moment, and that the face looking back at us in the mirror is not just our own. Advent isn’t waiting for God to do something about this God-forsaken world, it’s awakening to the moment where God’s “doing” and our “doing” move into conformity with each other.
You are so much more than you. We are all unique reflections of God in the world. And so is our enemy.
We all long for and anticipate a day when our world finds peace and our enemies are scattered. Yet we deny that today is that day, and we ignore the work of God within our heart to love those we’ve been taught to despise. The state of our world is desperate for God to restore things to order, but the means by which this comes has been established, and given to all the world, and somehow the Church continues to proclaim that the means for such change is the fiery destruction of the world.
Advent is not eschatological, its incarnational!!
The Advent of God will not come by skimming over our heart’s need to change toward our fellow man. Until the moment we join God in loving others, the world suffers a living Hell. The state of our world is our fault, not “theirs.”
Advent begins when we stop looking up, and start looking in.