Sunday, December 02, 2007

the Advent spirit

Today's Dallas Morning News mentions an article from Thursday's Wall Street Journal that to me exemplifies the Advent spirit I'm seeking. Trappist monks in Belgium brew a beer that connossieurs clamor for. The monks refuse to increase production: "It would interfere with our job of being a monk," one says. To those who want more beer: "'Seek the Kingdom of God first, and all these things will be given to you,' counters Brother Joris, quoting from the Bible, adding that it refers only to things you really need. 'So if you can't have it, possibly you do not really need it.'"

What simplicity. It is easy, especially around Christmas, to have unrealistic expectations and to become disappointed when I can't have what I want. It would be a great growth in maturity for me to realize that what I can't have, I don't need, and to stop striving for what I can't have. What would happen if I spent more time reflecting on the fact that all I need is to "seek first the kingdom of God"? Advent is the perfect time for this. Traditionally it is kind of a mini-Lent -- a time for reflection and penitence. As the song says, "Let every heart prepare him room."

I need a little Advent, right this very minute. I'm not ready for Christmas. Nor should I be -- the Christian liturgical year begins with Advent for a reason. We begin with waiting. We have four Sundays -- not even a month -- devoted to preparing for the Coming of our Lord Jesus. To jump immediately into Christmas decorations, music, parties and festivities, as much fun as it may be, is to me artificial. Yes, Christ has come into the world and we should celebrate, but our lives are not a constant celebration of His presence. One of the songs of this season says, "Come, O come, Emmanuel" -- we bid God who is with us to come to us -- because we are captive and mourning and will continue in this way until he returns. Our broken world awaits Jesus' second Coming, when he will for good bring light into the darkness. We celebrate Christmas at the same time of year that the days are the shortest and therefore the darkness most pronounced. I don't want to let the festivities of Christmas to lead me to ignore the reality of the darkness that still covers our world.

I need to spend time this season quietly reflecting and asking God how I can better bear his light in dark places. Then, come December 25, I can celebrate Christmas joyfully.

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to share how you prepare for Christ's coming with your children. John is a little young this year to understand "the reason for the season" but I want to gather some ideas about how to help him celebrate Jesus' birth and anticipate his return.

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