19 Dec 2011

Advent Reflections (A Repost)

Waking up to hope!

This is the last week of Advent – last Sunday night I lit the last of the four candles which I have placed in the coffee table in my home. Bound together in pretty ribbons and greenery, they have become an icon, a prayer, and a constant reminder of Advent in this great season of preparation. On a purely personal level, Advent helps me to feel good, and it slows me down.

At the same time, today is a day when the news speaks about bank investigations, about drug fuelled lives, about the havoc this ‘unprofessional’ weather is causing and costing. There’s an ennui, a bored weariness, in how we tell one more story of what’s not working.

This year, our economic reality has really challenged my celebration of Advent – insisting, as it does, that pretty decorations and gentle reflections don’t cut it when the chips are down! So, what can Advent mean to me in 2010? In this reality, this place, this time?

Well, at the start of Advent this year, I was struck by an article in the Irish Times (Breda O'Brien, 27/11/10). It read: "Every day someone else tells me they have stopped listening to the radio, or reading newspapers, because it is all too depressing. In one way it is understandable. ... But declaring it all to be TMI (too much information) is to fall prey to some serious delusions ... We are a country that has had more than a grudging approval of people who bend the system to suit themselves. That has to stop. ... It is important this ... is a rejection of that kind of culture and not just impotent rage because we are facing a decade or more of austerity". I found this echoed in an Advent reading "It is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand." (Romans 13 – from the first Sunday of Advent).

I was struck by how I had fallen asleep. Fallen asleep in my faith, in my citizenship, in my family and in life generally. Life is undoubtedly not as easy this year, and I was struck by how much energy I was putting into me (poor me!) and into complaining about this. And I realised how little energy that left for hope & God, for family & life. It seemed like I was becoming more comfortable with darkness than with light.

So, Advent came at a good time for me this year. I needed to step away from the gossip, the complaining and the weariness that I had begun to feel was normal. I needed to be still, to pray and to re-connect with the Good News of faith, hope and love that this season of Advent offers us. I needed to journey with the prophets, with Mary and with my church in preparation for Christmas. This Advent, I have tried to not wait in brittle hope of the I.M.F., but rather to wait in confident hope of God’s grace.

The base of an ancient baptismal font -
In the ruins of Portumna 13th century Cistercian Abbey

Today is the shortest day of the year. This morning we left for work in almost total darkness, and tomorrow we awake in what seems to be the same dark world. But, in truth, tomorrow is fundamentally different. We have crossed the winter solstice, and we are faced towards Spring and towards sunshine. Tomorrow, the first light we see will be the light after the longest dark night - an annual light proclaiming that darkness is always overcome.

What Advent means to me is this year is ‘wake up call’ .... an invitation to stand up and face the Son. Christmas is coming, wake up, be glad .... nothing is impossible for the Son of God.


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