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Awakening to Advent

By: Cara Barth

“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” ~ Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Thinking about the approaching Christmas season, I am very aware of how quickly my spirit wants to feel heavy and “burdened.” I was never a real fan of Christmas, even as I child I never had the excitement the other children did. I’m not real sure of the “whys” and “hows” this feeling of holiday dread came, but as time goes on and an awareness of truth comes through, I might just get this holiday thing down yet!?

As I grew to adulthood, I found my joy coming from and through my children’s holiday happiness, and I strived to help them feel about the holidays in a way I never knew. Now my children are all grown, and I am finding twinges of an awakening happening. This inner joy, I believe, is coming from learning about the old traditions of past holidays and especially around “Advent.”

Advent is the period of the four Sundays and weeks before Christmas. Christians should be using this time to prepare and remember the REAL/TRUE meaning of Christmas. I believe this is what was missing. In my spirit, I knew there was more. John R. Brokhoff, in his Preaching the Parables, started my awakening to the tradition of Advent when he wrote, “What has happened to the old-fashioned, ‘spiritual’ Christmas? The cause is our disregard of Advent. The church set aside this four-week, pre-Christmas season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming. It is a time of quiet anticipation. We have the joy not of celebration, but the joy of anticipation.”

It was this “anticipation” of newness, new hope, new beginnings and renewed spirit that was lacking in my holidays. Oh I sang the songs of Advent, but I don’t think I was ever really told what the story behind all this verbiage was. Songs like, “People Look East’,” “Come, thou long expected Jesus” and perhaps the most popular advent song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel!” were speaking to the joy of anticipation!

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, in Seek That Which Is Above, does a wonderful job of an explanation: “Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”  Winston Churchill once said, “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.”

I am learning that Advent is so much more than gathering around the Advent wreath made of a massive coil of evergreens and deep blue ribbons draped around four handmade candles of beeswax. A time of true Advent is giving voice to the longing for peace and justice. It’s a time to implore God-in-Jesus to enter into our lives and bring with Him peace and mercy. The awakening to Advent should be a time when the whole Body of Christ is marching together in quiet contemplation and anticipation.

Advent is not a season for triumphant people. It is a season for the broken, for those hurting in body, mind and spirit. It is a season for people who have struggled and fought, who can do nothing else but wait, for all their energy has been expended elsewhere. It is a season for a people whose exhausted, desperate cry is, “Come!” In the waiting, comes the awakening. A glimmer of hope becomes an ember of joy that we are not alone through all of this and we have a champion coming. This my friends is what was lacking for me, I wanted/needed the whole story. I needed the awakening that comes with anticipation….

I leave you with the following “Advent Credo” from Walking on Thorns, by Allan Boesak in hopes it may spark your Advent Awakening!

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss.

This is true: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life;

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction.

This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly;

 It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word and that war and destruction rule forever.

This is true: Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, his name shall be called wonderful councilor, mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of peace;

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world.

This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo I am with you, even until the end of the world;

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church before we can be peacemakers.

This is true: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall have dreams; 

It is not true that our hopes for liberation of humankind, of justice, of human dignity of peace are not meant for this earth and for this history.

This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that the true worshipers shall worship God in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope.

Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.

Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage:

Jesus Christ is the life of the world.


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