Advent Article

The season of Advent is upon us. It’s the time when we expectantly look forward to Jesus coming, both historically in our Christmas celebration and in the future as the culmination of our lives. Advent brings with it uncertainty, how are we called to live our lives in response to the ever present and future coming of Jesus. It’s the challenge and comfort of God involved in the mess and beauty, joy and pain of human life. The uncertainty of the season seems to mirror our contemporary uncertainty as we contemplate the out workings of Brexit, the nature of a Trump presidency or the outcome of various European elections. How does our national and international situation reflect the Kingdom for which Jesus prayed?

 

We often associate candles or chocolate countdown calendars with Advent but a modern Advent image might be the painting by Banksy of a beggar saying, “Keep your coins, I want your change”. Advent should be a time when we are lured, like a moth to a flame, to different ways of seeing things, of doing things and of being. In his poem Kneeling, the priest/poet RS Thomas guides us to the need to take time out as, “The meaning is in the waiting” but this waiting is meant to drive us forward to a different psychological and spiritual place.

 

The emphasis on waiting and changing comes from the Christian understanding that God is love. Any loving relationship is built upon time together and willingness to change, not to grow apart, but to be drawn ever closer in a dialogue of thought and embrace of the lover. Loving relationships are expectant of the rich potential of exploring together, are unfulfilled as there always remains the possibility to go deeper, and are a work in progress as our experiences, both together and apart, add new dimensions to our relationship. All of this is true of our relationship with God, the source of love, as we acknowledge the imperfections of the present in the light of the source of all that is good and true. The philosopher John Caputo says the Advent of the God of love, “traumatises our narcissism”.

 

Narcissism is ever present in our consumer and advertising driven culture. Society proclaims that it’s essential to consider ourselves worthy of all the latest gadgets and trendy clothes. In contrast, Advent is about eternal values and experiences. Traditional themes for the Sundays of Advent include death, judgement, heaven and hell. Probably not much of a draw in the Christmas shopping but key to reflect upon if we hope to model and live eternal values. We also see communal and country narcissism in the desire to put various countries above others, and damn the consequences. The Kingdom for which Jesus prayed had eternal values to be applied universally. In this Kingdom, walls are to be replaced with bridges and fear is to be replaced by love; our neighbour is understood universally and God’s image is found in those not in our own image.

 

With love and prayers,           Paul

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