And so, we find ourselves in the brief season of Advent, at the point of entering the even briefer season of Christmas. When we examine our liturgical calendar, we find that this time of year is a sort of unkempt “seam” for the entire year, where the irregularities of each year are dealt with, not necessarily in an elegant fashion. Holy Family gets moved from Sunday to Friday in some years; the Baptism of the Lord moves from Sunday to Monday in others.
But within these brief seasons, we find deep longings expressed: longings and yearnings outstripping the very few weeks the seasons take up. Christmas, of course, finds us in awe over the great contradiction which our God embraces. Can it be that God will see fit to allow himself to be human? This is the prime madness of our Christian faith. Why does the Son of God lower himself in this way? Why does he choose to enter the cramped conditions of our existence? And by “cramped” we refer, not only to physical limitations, but also to the obstacles demanded by the reign of sin in this world. Why would the Son of God choose to encumber himself?
With time and age, we come around to the conclusion that this is precisely the way in which human beings need to be loved. Human existence is a frightening thing to carry out. Even when we are surrounded by throngs of our fellows, we can and often do feel great desolation. Jesus was born among us so that he could be united with us in our sense of being alone and abandoned. And the Son bore the even greater desolation of feeling separated from
Soon enough we will ponder the mysteries of God’s being enfleshed. We will bring into our meditations our newest experiences of the hard realities of our existence.
But we must also consider the Advent which is fast slipping past us. Although Christmas follows immediately, Advent is not primarily a preparation for celebrating the humble coming of the Savior. On top of the awareness of the birth in Bethlehem, we superimpose the expectation, expressed down through many centuries, that the obscure dreams of human beings will be realized, and more than realized, when the Crucified and Risen One will bring all things to completion and fulfillment.
Isaiah offers us the dream of a peaceable kingdom (11: 6-9) where the natural foes of the animal world discover that they need not necessarily be predators and prey but can become friends. The dream of Isaiah can be transferred to human beings. We may think of the sharpest and most bitter of human disagreements. Isaiah’s dream is to be applied to human situations which we suppose
Advent is about the fulfillment of dreams. The One who is victorious over sin and death is granting us fulfillment. We talk about “the end of the world,” and this prospect seems forbidding because, even in our misery, we want to cling to the familiar. The end is coming. But we must understand that it is merely the end of the griefs of our existence. It is the beginning of our inhabiting an existence wherein we embrace the image of God in us. We recognize the triumph of God’s love in our hearts. We find that we are fashioned to proclaim that love with a sense of amazement which is