Why Make A Big Deal Out of Advent?
Advent is a time for relinquishing some of the control in order to receive the impossible from God. - Walter Brueggeman
I have this memory of a Christmas pageant I was in when I was like six years old. I was a shepherd, and I had a line, I think.
I would like to say that I was the shepherd who said, "Let us go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us." All our pageants used the King James Version of the Bible.
Anyway, I remember standing there thinking, "Why are we making such a big deal out of Jesus being born. Didn't we do this last year?"
The more you think about it, the less crazy that question sounds, doesn't it? I mean why do we make such a big deal out of Advent and then Christmas anyway? What's at the heart of it all?
We know that the Jesus' birth wasn't something that the first Christians really celebrated at all.
Those early Christians were more into the Resurrection, and the belief that somehow through the mystical power of the Holy Spirit there was evidence of Jesus presence all around them even though he wasn't physically with them.
And they were absolutely caught up in the idea that there would come a day when Jesus' presence would be fully recognized by everyone, everywhere. They believed that when that day came, God would get what God wanted once and for all: shalom or God's peace permeating every aspect of Creation.
So why do we do this whole Advent thing? Why make a big deal out of it?
I think it's because Advent reminds us of the earthiness of God's entry into human history through Jesus. It gives the chance to tell the story one more time--the story of how through Jesus God became one of us to rescue all of us.
We also get the chance to remember that the "second" coming is something that we don't have to wait for--we can experience it right here and now. Theologian Karl Rahner puts it like this in an essay he wrote as a prayer to Christ himself:
It is said that you will come again, and this is true. But the word again is misleading. It won't really be "another" coming, because you have never really gone away. In the human existence that you made your own for all eternity, you have never left us.As you continue your journey through this blessed season of Advent, may you find moments where you feel the presence of Jesus so intensely that you find yourself bursting forth in spontaneous praise.
May those moments remind you of his arrival, to be sure... but may it also remind you that he is present in your here and now. And maybe you can pray this prayer that Karl Rahner wrote many years ago:
O God who is to come, grant me the grace to live now, in the hour of your Advent, in such a way that I may merit to live in you forever, in the blissful hour of your eternity.And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.