The liturgical entry into Advent always straddles an uneasy tension with the rituals of Christmas commercialist frenzy. All of which really have very little to do with the advent of Christ. The word “advent” comes from the Latin adventus, which means coming or arrival, but also means a ripening or development, a visit. It can even mean—perhaps shockingly—an invasion.
The invitation of Advent, then, is always to ready ourselves for what is to come, which is the realm of peace and joy through Christ. The coming of a Messiah signifies much more than an individual person or baby, though. As wonderful as babies are, the coming of Christ is far more cosmic in scope, stirring anticipation for a different and more hopeful reality itself. In a time of American moral crisis, along with our habitual resistance to encountering God in our inner lives, Advent becomes a time that destabilizes and overturns our priorities. Because we are, truly, so rarely people of authentic peace, nonviolence, joy, and freedom. (Consider the United States’s unauthorized complicity in the Saudi Arabian bombing and hunger crisis of Yemen, for example). To anticipate the coming of Christ—which is a historical reality through Jesus, but also an archetypal revelation of God’s realm of love—offers the possibility of a ripening and development of our consciousness. It also feels like an invasion.
When people of violence are faced with the possibility of peace, the truth of our violence is mirrored to us. God’s invasion of love unsettles us because it shows us who we are, and how much we lack and are desperate for such love.
My pastoral challenge to you is to create intentional spaces for yourself in this Advent season to prepare God’s way in your life. Because if we create space for God’s invasion, the rough initial shock of an invasion does soften into a ripening, deepening, and developing experience. Whether it is solo skiing, meditation practices, taking a day off to reflect on your life, or engaging in a “Buy-Nothing Christmas,” the coming of God is always momentous, always transformative. Life is too short to miss it.
With loving anticipation,