In a world in which the rhythm of life is no longer dictated by the movements of the church year, Advent sounds a strangely discordant note. Amidst the buying of presents, decorating homes, parties, and preparing for family reunions, Advent is a bothersome season. Just when we are trying to be especially happy, the church starts talking about the return of the Lord, when we know what we want is lights and food and presents and whatever else feels good. Why does the church have to be so solemn when we just want to have a good time? It’s a bit like going to a party and finding you have a stone in your shoe, with nowhere to discreetly tip it out.
Advent, however, is the assurance that God takes us seriously. It speaks not of going to God, but of God coming to us; God being present in the here and now; God asking us to take a good look at our world and to care about it in the same way that God cares. Jesus’ call to us today is about personal accountability and re-assessment. Repentance is about the opportunity to re-connect to God and to God’s world. It is not a coincidence that Christmas, the culmination of Advent, is marked by generous gifts to and programs for the poor. It reminds us that we are to be alert to God’s world — a world that will not overwhelm us, but a world that compels our compassion. When we know compassion, we come to know God, and God comes to us with great joy.
As this Advent moves forward, take a little time to invite God to come into your life so that you may open your eyes to all that God has made. Celebrate all that is good and heal whatever is broken. Teresa of Avila wrote, “We should walk in truth before God in as many ways as possible.” Advent tells the truth about our humanity, about God’s inexhaustible love for everything that is, and God’s call to compassionate participation. Walk in the love that is this Truth.
The Reverend Susan N. Eaves