An Advent Message from Father Lanier…

Posted on Nov 20, 2013

Recently, someone came up to me to claim there is a war on Christmas, by which I understand them saying that consumer culture celebrates Christian traditions but without Christ at the center (think Santa Claus and Gift Giving without mention of the Wise Men and Jesus Christ). They actually went on a bit more, claiming that the consumer culture was suppressing the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the Son of God. “That may well be,” I said, but the bigger issue I felt was the loss of Advent, our season of expectation and preparation. I know that Christmas music is already loaded up in stores by now and our eyes are already on Christmas decorations and all. The bigger loss to me is that we are forgetting what it is to prepare, to wait expectantly, to listen to that silence before the Word made flesh is born.

Advent was for a long time a fasting period, at times a season of repentance (back when repentance and penance was the most popular form of preparation). It continues for us as a season of quiet darkness. The days are short, the air is cold and getting colder and we are perhaps struggling with the lack of light and lack of warmth. Advent is a precious pregnant season, a season of struggle and change and wonder. We are in our last uncomfortable season before we celebrate the birth of Christ, yet it is a time easily distracted. So many things to do to get ready for Christmas….. Yet the point of God’s redemptive incarnation was not simply so we could have a great party; it was so that we could know God as only God knows God. In our lives we are often called to struggle through difficult patches, thorny problems in life and endless issues of suffering, and yet what Advent helps teach us is a kind of wisdom, wisdom that shows us there is no way around the pangs of birth but to give birth. There is no escape for the contracting mother; no escape for the soul who is called to give birth to the Word in her depths. The commercial culture of Christmas will have the celebration of their own design, but no birth is of our own design. The Word spoken through the prophets, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, the Word born in the ground of our deepest abyss…is never of our own design, so we must prepare, not for what we want but for the unknown. We prepare with loving attention, silent listening and being with all the tension and frustration and pain of this labor. We are not called to “go around”, to “leap over” into Christmas, but to pay close attention to the kicks and the hiccups of our life, of this life that is not a manageable complexity but an unmanageable simplicity.

May we breathe deeply and not try and find the door when the word begins to crown. Blessings for a Holy Advent,
Fr. Justin