Sunday, December 16, 2018

A holy, transforming Advent

“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” (Mt 24:42)

The familiar Advent theme of keeping awake derives from apocalyptic literature about the end of times – a common fear among humans found in most cultures throughout history. For Christians, however, the feared judgment has already happened -- and it was redemption. God chose to come among us as Jesus, the Christ, who is always coming, always redeeming.

This is the Good News we share: that there is no longer anything to fear about our personal deaths or the end of the world as we know it, so we can turn our attention instead to living this apocalyptic truth from Jesus: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10;10)

God knows, our humanity guarantees that there will be times we’re proceeding through life as if in a slumber. A common example is when we eat a meal with friends only to discover that the food on our plates is gone and we hardly remember eating it. Also, sometimes when we drive, we suddenly “wake up” and realize we’re much farther along in our trip than we’d realized.

These are natural occurrences and are a testament to how elegantly designed we are by God. There is a biologic state in between waking and sleeping called the hypnogagic state which scientists are just now beginning to study more closely. “Hynogogia tends to be experienced as if we were passive observers.” (Source) Jesus goes right to this in his call for us to wake up.

The problem is not, then, that we fall into this slumber, but when we get stuck in it. When we can’t or won’t “wake up” out of fear or a sense of powerlessness or worthlessness. When that happens, it points to a rift in our relationship with our Creator and we risk going through the motions of our lives as passive observers rather than as active, beloved participants with the Divine..

Advent calls us to wake up fully, to breathe in deeply, to re-orient ourselves and shake off the slumber so that we can get going again. We have been invited to participate with God in the work of redemption; chosen as partners, just as Mary and Joseph were two millennia ago.

Doing so takes preparation – intentional, prayerful, continuing preparation. That is the purpose and the goal of the season of Advent. Advent gives us the opportunity to quiet the chaos of the season as the culture experiences it and make space in our souls and our lives for God, so that the amazing event we await – the coming of the Christ - has the opportunity to have its transforming effect on us. We do this by making time for quiet reflection and prayer; allowing ourselves to enter the peace, touch the mystery, and be in the Presence of God.

God bless us all as we practice a holy, transforming Advent.

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