So, it’s Advent again. Among the general populace, Advent remains an opportunity that is too often little appreciated, little understood and commonly ignored. Advent is about learning to wait. It is about not having to know exactly what is coming tomorrow. Advent teaches us the difference between expectation, anticipation and waiting; suspense, eagerness and “twiddling your thumbs to pass the time.”
Advent is about the power of emptiness and the spiritual meaning of smallness. We strive to live with the basics rather than hoard what, in God’s eyes anyway, after all is not ours. When we have little to begin with, we have even less to lose. When we have fewer possessions, fewer clothes in our closets and fewer books (even the holy ones) and papers that we MIGHT need someday, we spend fewer minutes caring for them. It means that we have less to protect or to fight over and even less to boast about. We can be more open to possibility.
Our conversations can turn to stories and concerns focused outward, on the other rather than the self. There is a rare sprinkling of “I” and “my” and “mine.” Attention is directed away from the self to shine our light on others. We radiate the blessings of life, not the gloom of sadness, sickness, tiredness and woe. We become more fully human, full of compassion and full of consciousness. Our community Advent practices help hone the attitude of prayerfulness, almsgiving and compassion.
Take a stroll down memory lane and feel again the anticipation and impatience you felt for the night Santa Claus would come. That’s the feeling we still need to be filled with as we await the coming of Christmas – the commemoration of the night Jesus opened His eyes and beheld the tender love of his earthly mother and his foster father Joseph; heard the voices of the angels singing praises and felt the warmth of the breath of curious animals.
I invite you to live again, the moment you discovered the reality of the Santa myth. You’d probably had plenty of hints for a long time from older siblings or classmates. In fact you might have known from the beginning that there was no one who was “Santa.” But, you were slow to relinquish the fantasy of the jolly fellow enjoying the cookies you’d left for him and emptying his sack of toys to find the gift with your name on it. Even children who are aware that their families are “dirt poor” cling to the dream of a Santa figure.
As we mature, so do our hopes and dreams. The final line of the selection from Matthew’s Gospel reminds us first: we do not know what day the Lord will appear. Then, “You must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” That does not refer only to the hour of our death. Remember the story of the Abbot who visited his Rabbi friend who shared with him a valuable lesson: “the messiah is among the ranks of your community.” We are challenged to be Messiah to each other. To treat each other, those who walk through the door, with gentleness and courtesy – that one may be the Messiah among us. Now, in place of eager children looking forward to Santa bringing us gifts, we conger ways to be “Santa” to others.
So, we pray: “May the God of Israel increase our longing for Jesus our Savior and give each and all of us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of Jesus’ coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of Truth.”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, O.S.B., Prioress