Sunday, December 4, 2011

early days of Advent

I haven't had much time for blogging or anything else since starting my new job-- which I still feel excited and warm and fuzzy about, by the way. I wake up in the morning and after the initial ugh, must I get out of bed? comes a great feeling like a hot chocolate fountain bubbling up inside: I have work to do!

Advent started last Sunday; today was the second Sunday of four. Until a friend recently remarked that he couldn't see the point of Advent, I hadn't thought about it too much. Certainly my Advents in Japan were much quieter affairs than they were when I was a Catholic schoolgirl or even later on in university, but they were powerful for all that, and I came to appreciate the season more.

"For the pagans," a priest said last week, "the season that starts now is a frenzied time to buy, drink, party-- and when Christmas finally comes they'll rip down all the decorations and try to sleep off the hangover. But for Christians, this season is about expectation, prayer, repentance, and self-denial-- and when Christmas finally comes, we will celebrate it for 12 days."

I am thankful for the many blessings I've received since coming home in August, and they give me strength to live most days with a grateful attitude. But I have no wish to deny the pain and suffering around me, either, in my friends, family, and my own life.

Suffering is a dark fire that courses through our veins and works its way into our hearts and minds, to the extent that we let it. To the extent that we let it, it comes pouring out of our eyes and mouth to sully the world outside. Most of us struggle mightily to keep our suffering away from others, especially if those others are somehow involved in the pain. We may try to keep our suffering away even from God, and let it drive itself between us and Him like a blasphemous pillar of fire.

So when confronted with the statement that Advent is a season for prayer, we balk. Fill a quota of memorized, textbook prayers? Force ourselves to sing treacly tunes and recite devotions to which we cannot begin to relate? Or maybe just "talk" to God, a one-way communication that devolves into an endless repetition of our anger and fear?

No. We must bring our whole selves into the Presence of God. An Adoration chapel would be a wonderful place to go. You could take a Bible and find a Psalm that fits your situation; there's sure to be at least one. But when you are ready, look at Him and lay bare your heart. Here it is, Lord. This is how I feel. These are my troubles. I give them all to You.

And He will undoubtedly answer with a question, the same question He asked so many people in Palestine 2000 years ago, people who needed healing just like us: What do you want me to do for you?

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