Thursday, 3 December 2015

'Seeing the Great Light': Preparing for a Radical Advent...

For Christians, we are now in the season of Advent.  

Advent (from the Latin adventus, meaning ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’) is the season that precedes Christmas in the Christian liturgical year. It consists of the four Sundays before Christmas Day, beginning on the first Sunday after the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) and continues until the 24th of December.

Advent is a time of preparation and reflection. Traditions involve the lighting of candles on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, usually in church but also in the home.

Similar to the season of Lent in the lead-up to Easter, Advent is also a traditional time of fasting, self-examination, and prayer.

Reflections during Advent often draw on the biblical texts from the long centuries before the birth of Christ.

It is a time to remember the prophecies of the Hebrew scriptures that tell of the eventual coming of God’s messiah, which Christians believe refer to Jesus.

It is a time to reflect on the coming invasion; 

The invasion of God into his creation.

Ultimately, Advent prepares us for Christmas, the celebration of the incarnation, 

‘God with us’.

The incarnation is the central theme of the ancient Hebrew prophets. No matter what was going on-

invading armies, corrupt officials, unjust structures, inhumane systems, the devaluing of human life and human goodness-

the prophets asserted that God was not blind, nor did he sleep.

God’s Messiah would come, and all would be put right:

And it would not be put right in some mystical, fantastic reality beyond this world;

It would be put right here, now, in history, in time.  

On the first Sunday of Advent, we read from the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah:

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
They lived in a land of shadows,
but now light is shining on them.
You have given them great joy, Lord;
you have made them happy.
They rejoice in what you have done,
as people rejoice when they harvest grain
or when they divide captured wealth.
For you have broken the yoke that burdened them
and the rod that beat their shoulders.
You have defeated the nation
that oppressed and exploited your people,
just as you defeated the army of Midian long ago.
The boots of the invading army
and all their bloodstained clothing
will be destroyed by fire.
A child is born to us!
A son is given to us!
And he will be our ruler.
He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,”
“Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”
“Prince of Peace.”

God had revealed himself as the God of life and liberation; 

the God of transformation.

Thus, the Christian liturgical year begins by putting the world on notice that we await transformation-

Not just of hearts, minds, and souls, but of historical conditions;

Of structures, of hierarchies, of the status quo.

With the coming of the messiah, the prophets declared, nothing can- or will- remain as it is.

For the poor, the marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the oppressed, this is good news;

For the wealthy, the influential, the disenfranchising, and the oppressors, this is a warning…

This is the radical Advent.

And those who hold to this spirit of transformation are a radical ‘Advent people’.

This is why it would be such a mistake to see Advent in only spiritual terms. Though for centuries, religious and political structures colluded to assure us that misery on Earth was a prelude to a glorious heaven, the world has rightly risen in protest against such sentimental piety.

The ‘Advent people’ cultivate hope- for peace, for justice, for equity, for equality.

The ‘Advent people’ prepare for what is coming- for who is coming…

The ‘Advent people’ proclaim that, yes, we have walked in darkness;

Darkness of violence, war, oppression, injustice…

But we have seen a great light.

And that light will light our transformation…

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful piece, Jon, thank you! And a blessed Christmas to you and your Mum.