Holy Nights Contemplation: Advent in the Christian Year

Gospel reading: Luke 21:25-26IMG_4981.JPG

During these Holy Nights, we will look at the evolution of the Christian festivals through the course of the year. Perhaps it is a bit jolting to hear the gospel reading from Advent this morning, now that we stand firmly in the light of the Christmas festival. But the Holy Nights give us a special opportunity to look at the coming year during this time called “the year between the years,” and in these days, we will enter into the Christian festivals to better prepare the year ahead. Held by the special mood of Christmas, we can perhaps gain new insights into the meaning of the ongoing Christian story for our lives.

At Christmas, the Child is placed before us. When Christmas first broke upon the world, it was a new revelation, a great act of God’s love for us: we were losing our way, and a new beginning was given to us in the Child.

In that time, the Advent preparation was hidden from us, it was not a human act but took place in the heavenly realms, the long preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God. It was only visible to human beings in the wise guidance given to the Israelites, in their religious devotion to living the Law given through Moses, to create a right hereditary stream for the preparation of an earthly human being who could receive the divine. Forty-two generations from Abraham to Jesus.

But we have progressed, and the human being is now asked to celebrate Advent in order to rightly prepare for the birth at Christmas, which has grown now out of that first birth. The birth that was initiated so long ago continues now: the birth of the true human being, “spiritual-physical.” This is the human being who we are becoming, the one conceived of in the Creation of the World, the one made in God’s image.

And at Advent, it is not the child placed before us—no, the reading we hear places us firmly in our troubled, tumultuous times—a grown up description of the true state of things. And into the center of this time on earth, it is the Son of Man who is placed before our souls. A new human being, who was first born in and through that Child God born on earth. Through his life, death, resurrection, and Ascension, he becomes something new for us: a new Ancestor, to begin a new hereditary stream from within our present humanity.

This is how we can say we are human beings, and yet we are not yet fully human. This is why any one of us, despite what we have been given in the past, whatever we have suffered or felt bound to, we always have a chance to change our lives. We can relate to our family or origin in new ways, and we can make bonds of love and commitment to those who are not within that stream. We can change the course of our destiny! It is not easy, but it is possible.

We need Advent every year to hep prepare for this ever deepening birth: the human being is being reborn from the inside: to overcome the forces of the past and of death, and develop a new capacity to love that encompasses the whole world.

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