A flickering candle in a darkened room. The light is golden, the flame, gentle. It beckons. It even seems to desire us and say, “Come, to my light!” Still, it does not speak of its own accord, for a candle is but a sign—a sign for something, rather, Some One whose voice spoke long ago, “Be not afraid.” The Light Shines in the darkness and darkness shall not overcome it! Yes, it is only one candle, but sufficient to point to the One who is humble of heart, who is neither too much, nor too little, who is the Eternal NOW.
Let’s face it. Without Him, this world is too much for us. It always was and always will be. Indeed, right now, some people are too much for us! The stores are too much, the carols too ubiquitous already! We haven’t even learned our Advent Hymns—not after all these years. Maybe one. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” But heavens! There are dozens more, each with a lesson for our souls. We have 25 days. Get started!
Advent offers much on its own, insisting that we live with longing for better days while attentive to Christ Past, Christ Present and Christ Future. If we let Him, Christ will cultivate in us a daily receptiveness to grace, fortifying in us perpetual patience to live one moment at a time, one day a time, one difficulty at a time. Of course, there is temptation to light all the candles now! But we must not! One must be sufficient for today. We need the patience of Jesus now more than ever–and only we can choose to cultivate it. Savor it. Allow the True Light of Jesus to enlighten our minds in one singular, sweet, deep breath—that’s all that matters now. Breathe! Just Breathe! And look to the candle! If you cannot see it, imagine the flame! Let it warm your heart!
From this single flame, let Jesus convey Himself to you. Allow Him to penetrate your very being. “Be still” but do not be stoic. Be firm in faith but with a faith that is fluid, too, fluid as Creation, as fluid as Advent which moves us backward and forward in time while living “in the moment” at the very same time.
The First Sunday of Advent insists we embark on a voyage of memory to learn from our ancestors’ mistakes and our own; to admit that, yes, while we would all rather run away from all that bothers us today—and so much bothered us this year, and still does–Christ is behind us, Christ is beside us, Christ is before us perpetually offering the better way.
Allow Christ to take us far, far, farther back in time, to see this single flame as part of the one Eternal Flame, of Time before Time –long before we have had to prove ourselves or defend ourselves to anyone, before we had to make enemies of others to feel better about ourselves or worse, play the victim—for when we compare ourselves to true victims, we are not true victims at all. But hope abides by going back beyond our pasts to the origin of the molecules that make up the wonder of you, of me, of everybody–of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen that long before we came on the scene, formed stars imploding, exploding! Stars that in time, so much time—expanded their molecules to mix with molten ash and salty seas, and water ways flowing from fresh, clear mountain ice –plants convoking convocations of creatures, primitive and primary, who came upon dry land to feast upon leaves, fruits and berries, multiplying, diversifying, evolving until, at last, with beating hearts and expanding brains: humanity . Thus, our ancestors came into consciousness and full human existence. But not for our sake alone. Not for aggrandizement, not for power, nor subjugation of fawn, field, or flower, nor to vanquish fellow beings—but to yield through hundreds of thousands of years to the ONE, to YIELD to the one who was and who is the pinnacle, the purpose of all creation—the ONE through Whom We Were Formed who humbly appeared in time —so that we may perceive in time and space–the perfect synthesis of Human and Divine: the Man God: Jesus the Christ. Let these truths, THIS CHRIST — put all our issues in proper perspective.
Advent beckons back to such great beginnings and thrusts us into present realities. It invites us to marvel at God’s constancy and patience—through the people of the Bible, through the scandal of divisions of our time — precisely to clear our minds of all the cobwebs and shadows that distract us from our humble origins and our divine objectives. Yes, heaven is the goal, but it is to be lived out in harmony with every living thing; in humble gratitude for the distinctiveness that came to us only in time, GOD’S TIME, and with a God WHO IS NOT YET FINISHED WITH US! We ignore that to our detriment and to our peril. Sure, we can wallow in the wounds of this year or we can push forward – but let it not be in accordance with our will, our games of “hide and seek,” but in accordance with the Will of the True God revealed through Scripture and Sacrament: A Living Christ Among Us.
Too often we refuse to acknowledge how much we forestall, postpone, delay our spiritual, emotional, intellectual growth—yes, all of these in harmony and balance is what true holiness is. Advent is a Seasonal Gift that says: Stop! Stay! Do not run away! Our problems will follow us wherever we go. Slowly surrender to Jesus so that we may abide imperfect people and recognize that in our own imperfect, unappreciated selves, Christ never abandons us, bestowing on us peace and perseverance through any and every provocation—not so unlike those He himself from infancy to death endured! Yes, each in our own way and time are unappreciated. Yet how much more unappreciated was He! So, again, the Church commits us to a new year to patiently ponder our origins in Christ. May we not make ourselves so important, our guilts and grievances so great that we neglect our humble beginnings or forsake the One suffered for us, suffers with us, and offers something eternally new.
Look around! Look around! Who did Christ intend you to see? You took a step into this church—a building and a people. One more step forward is all that is needed to find communion. Soon, and very, very soon, you will be welcomed to walk up the aisle to receive Jesus and to perceive through Him, the true purpose for why we are here: For when you return from receiving the Eucharist, others will be revealed to you: Christ receivers, all. Christ perceivers, all. Christ bearers —Imperfect, impractical, impudent, nasty, selfish, mean-spirited, awful people—as each of us in turn can be. Welcome to Jesus’ world! Yet this, too, is meant to be a comfort to us –this vision of others. For truly, we are not alone in our sins. Do not worry! Be happy! Misery loves company! But more than that, more than that, in Christ, all that is miserable in us remains in a continuous Process of Redemption. Conversion today! Conversion tomorrow and the next day! It is Resurrection now! And Our God will never let the transformation stop! Like with every married couple: for better, for worse, God bestows me upon you, you upon me, and everybody upon everybody else to become a communion of Saints-in-the-making just as sure as Jesus called Disciples long ago. Remember this: Our Savior was not a private tutor. Our acceptance of Jesus as “Our Personal Lord and Savior” will only go so far because He is a Universal Savior! The Cosmic Christ! Remember that.
May we be satisfied this day with waiting for Christ as we attend to Christ in others; enjoying one candle at a time; one good friend at a time; one faithful spouse, one grateful child, niece or nephew at a time; one particular beloved Saint, one relative or loved one already in heaven—Yes, one at a time to remind us of our perpetual communion with Saints and Sinners as Christ affords us the patience to put up with one another until Christ is all in all. Let that be enough to bring Christ to us today, tomorrow and the next day. One Advent at a time, one moment at a time. One day at a time. Why, “That Day” is TODAY! And let this day, this day, be glorious!