Advent has begun. Many of us are already preparing our homes and families to observe this season of the Church calendar.
But how could we possibly celebrate Advent if we are paying attention to this world?
How do we make merry when our hearts are broken by Paris, by Syria, by Kenya, by Beirut, by Japan, by Burundi? When, in response to every crisis, our communities seem splintered and divided in how to respond, and careless words are flung like rocks at our own glass houses? When, closer to home, perhaps we are lonely or bored or tired or sick or broke?
In these days, celebration can seem callous and uncaring, if not outright impossible.
But here’s the thing about Advent: we celebrate precisely because we are paying attention.
It’s precisely because everything hurts that we prepare for Advent now.
We don’t get to have hope without having grief. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to grieve. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason for why we need hope to begin with.
Advent matters because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open.
Advent is the Church’s way of observing and remembering, of marking the truth we believe that God came to be with us once, and God is still with us, and God is coming again to set all things right.
It’s holding the truth of what is right now up to the truth of what was and what will be and then responding, like Mary sang to Elizabeth in her Magnificat: blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!
It is declaring that we believe it still: God is redeeming all that is broken in us and curing all that is sick in us and bringing all that is dead in us to life.