by Rosemarie Pace
Pax Christi New York
Ed. Note: At key moments throughout the liturgical year, long-time regional coordinator Rosemarie Pace will offer reflections timed to the season with accompanying prayers and suggested actions.
Coming. Waiting with Patience in Hope. Staying Awake. Preparation. Darkness into Light. Gift. Arrival. All these words are words of Advent. Amazing! Overwhelming! What a rich season! Yet how many truly celebrate it? And if you do, is it not a struggle against the tide of the rush to Christmas? Correction: Make that a tsunami! So how can we reclaim Advent, make it its own beautiful, meaningful, sacred season?
Let’s take each one of those words and phrases and think about them.
Coming: Who’s coming? We know Jesus is coming again in the cycle of birthdays. Certainly his birthday warrants a particularly grand celebration, but do we ever stop to ask what he wants for his birthday? Probably not cake and balloons, the latest technology, or even a gift card to pick his own presents. More likely, he’d appreciate our love—for him, for each other, for the neediest among us, even for our enemies. If we gave that to Jesus, we’d likely experience other comings, for example the coming of a kinder, more unified, more just, and more peaceful world.
Waiting with Patience in Hope: We know how hard this can be, but Advent calls us to step back and let things happen in their own time, to avoid the rush, to let God be God, to trust that all will be well because God is in it all.
Staying Awake: Of course, we need to remain alert so we don’t miss God’s presence in the people, events, and creation around us. God does come, and we don’t want to miss it, for God does have a way of appearing in some unlikely places and beings—on city streets, on country roads, in shopping malls, and parking lots, and who knows where else.
Preparation: Advent is a time to prepare, but not so much with cooking and baking, buying and wrapping, writing cards and decorating. Rather during Advent, we are to prepare ourselves for Jesus’s rebirth in us, which may mean cleaning out some of the cobwebs in our lives, for example reconciling with an estranged family member, devoting some (extra) time to prayer, or working to break a bad habit whether of thought, word, or deed.
Darkness into Light: In nature in the Northern Hemisphere, Advent occurs as we approach the shortest, darkest day of the year and then starts the process of lengthening days with increased light. Advent also brings us from the darkness of a world without Jesus to his birth. The Light of the World transforms the darkness of our longing into the light of his coming.
Gift: Jesus’s coming as Light of the World is the greatest gift for which we could hope. But, of course, there are other gifts in Advent. There’s the gift of Advent, itself, a time to open ourselves to the anticipation, the promise, and the expectation. Again, let’s remember not to rush it, but to use it to grow spiritually, readying ourselves for the grand Arrival.
Arrival: One meaning of Advent is arrival, which suggests that while Advent points to Jesus’s arrival, it also is its own arrival. How can that be? Well, Advent is the arrival of the liturgical New Year, not Christmas, but Advent. During Advent, we arrive at a new cycle of living and loving and serving.
May this Advent be as wonderful as all these descriptors depict for you and all your faith community!
Prayer – “Psalm of an Advent Ear” by Edward Hays in Prayers of a Planetary Pilgrim
With prayerful plea and Advent songs of longing, I await the birth of God’s Anointed One.
Come, O Gift of heaven’s harmony and attune my third ear, the ear of my heart,
so that I may hear, just as Mary, faithful woman of Israel, heard.
O God, the time is short, these days too few as I prepare for the feast of the birth of Mary’s son.
Busy days, crowded to the brim, with long lists of gifts to buy and things that must be done.
Show to me, also your highly favored child, how to guard my heart from noise and hurry’s whirl,
so that I might hear your voice calling my heart to create an empty space
that might be pregnant with heaven’s fire.
Quiet me within, clothe my body in peacefulness, that your Word once again may take flesh
—this time, within me—as once it did in holy Mary, long Advent days ago.
Be sure to set aside time throughout Advent to wallow in the treasure that it is, time to pray, time to reflect, time to read inspirational stories. There are numerous Advent reflection opportunities on-line and in hard copy publications, including Pax Christi USA’s Live Always in Joyful Anticipation: Reflections for Advent & Christmas 2022.
Attend a Lessons and Carols event in your local parish or neighborhood.
Invite or visit someone who’s in need of some Advent hope. Share the spirit with him or her.
Read and share the flier linked here that offers positive, nonviolent suggestions for holiday gift-giving to children.
Review this reflection and prayer for several more ideas of what you can do to make this Advent special.