Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent - Trusting Hope

While our Churches greet Advent with the penitential color of purple and solemn liturgical music and readings, our shopping malls are resplendent with diverse seasonal greetings,  muzak and multiple enticements to gift-buying – two very different and even contradictory approaches to the important celebration of Christmas.  Advent’s significance can be lost in the cacophony of advertising and its diversions.  In many ways it is a more gentle season than Lent which opens with Ash Wednesday confronting us with reminders of suffering, death and the finiteness of life. In contrast, Advent opens us to the hope of a new liturgical year and prepares us for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

The meaning of ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin, adventus,  which carries the tensive connotation of both ‘coming’ and ‘to come’, of ‘arriving’ and ‘arrival’ – the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ aspects of the Reign of God in our world. It is a time of celebration of Christ’s coming into our world, and a preparation for the Final Coming.
 
What is it that we are invited to prepare for personally and as members of a living faith community this Advent? Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of  Advent is the experience of waiting in a cultural context where instant response is a given. Trusting hope is not a common commodity in our western world. Advent reminds us that God’s covenant of Love accompanies us every step of our journey. We may fail God, but God’s steadfast love will not fail us. The first reading from Isaiah reminds us that we are the clay and God is the potter, “We are all the work of your hand.”  (Is:64:8)
 
What does it mean to say that we are the work of God’s hand? Surely it is a reminder to us that we are not on our own in our effort to live authentic lives in a world where so much trust has been lost. Advent calls us to consider that in the multi-leveled and diverse experiences of relational failures that have affected us all in our communities, “God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.” (1 Cor: 1:9) In Baptism we have been given the vocation to witness to God’s faithfulness through our own steadfast commitment to living faith, compassionate love, and resilient hope in the ordinary circumstances of our lives.  When there is so much suffering, despair and relational breakdown around us, the darkness of Advent reminds us that the dawn of new life has not only been promised, it is present in our world and yet still to come.
 
As we begin to say farewell to 2012, and move to welcome 2013 we can call to mind the promise of “the new and the possible” that Christmas offers, and that Advent prepares us for. We have every reason in this world and the next one to hope.