Dear Friends in Christ:
We begin the new Christian year with the season of Advent. Our colour has changed to purple to symbolize penitence. Spiritually it is meant to be a time greater self-reflection, in quiet, to prepare ourselves inwardly for the great feast and celebration of Christmas.
It is a penitential season – and yet it is also a season full of hope! We see lights going up in the streets at night to make up for the shorter days. We have an expectation of holidays coming on us, of visiting with loved ones, a sense that the normal routine is being interrupted for the festive. I’m learning of the special ways this is celebrated in the Netherlands – with Sinterklaas! Most people feel this excitement, even if they are not Christian. We have a special sense of it, as believers, remembering Christ’s first coming, his coming again in glory, but also his coming to us in this life: Know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep!
Maybe it seems like a bit of a game – pretending we are waiting for Jesus’ birth, when we already know he has come. Well it is and it isn’t – because in the Christian walk we know that although if we are baptized and believe, we are assured of our salvation, we also know that we can always go deeper in our walk with Jesus.
It is not God who holds back, be we who keep him at a distance. Is there anything we can do to wake up more fully to the life that Jesus would bring us?
We think about cleaning up our house for company who may be coming to visit during the Christmas holidays. If Jesus is going to enter more fully into my soul – I must attend to that house – is there something I am doing that is offensive to God, then I am to stop doing that, if I would prepare my soul to make a home for Him.
The high standards of the Law of love confound every one of us – the moral Law confronts us, it is like we have crashed into something, there is an inward turmoil as there was on the day when Jesus came into the Temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps now we understand better that rather violent image of Christ driving out the moneychangers from the Temple – it describes our experience of unease in the face of Truth.
But we are not called in Advent to introspection, to some house cleaning of our souls, just so that we might feel guilty and bad about ourselves when we discover what is going on within. Jesus knows more than anyone that this is the predicament of every human soul. He confronts each one of us, not to condemn us, but rather to sanctify us, to lead us out of our predicament step by step, truth by truth, as we can bear it, that we might become in time holy as he is holy. And we become holy not as an end in itself but to be able to see God and to enjoy Him forever.
Jesus is not angry with us but wants to make our hearts the paradise of God – His dwelling place – the place where prayer ascends as a sweet smelling fragrance to God and so that Christ is perceived by our neighbours in our every encounter with them.
As we allow the Son to rise within us, as we allow the Truth to fill us, then we are no longer asleep, stuck in vague uncertain dreams, but more awake and alive to God and to our neighbours’ needs.
I wish you all a blessed Advent preparation and the joy of Christmas – God taking flesh in Jesus Christ and in us.
In the love of Jesus,