Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent and the Incarnation

The season of Advent, according to the tradition and wisdom of the Church, is intended to be a time of quiet preparation of our hearts and souls to meet the Incarnate God. It is intended as a period of watchful anticipation, repentance, prayer, and special devotion, preparing us for the miracle of the birth of the Son of God. Advent is meant to allow the turbulence of our harried lives to settle (wholly in contradiction to the message given by society), and be a time to move into an inner stillness where we encounter the Christ within and discover peace and hope. Is that the way this Advent is for you? For whatever good intentions and design of the Church Year, very few of us, I suspect, actually experienced Advent in the way in which it was intended.

We live in extremely anxious and troubled times.  Nationally and around the world there is a fierce anger, frustration, self-centeredness and attitude of greed and lust for power. There is an genuine of fear of job loss, homelessness, poverty, and, for many, there is a prevailing sense of hopelessness. This is all in addition to the usual seasonal anxiety of too much activity, too many tasks to accomplish, all producing too much stress in our lives, and too much distress in the lives of those around us.  We are left with questions of where are we now with all of this and what is next, not to mention the ongoing everyday demands of family, church, friends, and our own inner drivenness to accomplish, to succeed, or to simply survive.  This is all enough to wear down the most well disciplined and committed saint. We can lament the loss of the real meaning of Advent. I complain about this every year, but I doubt seriously that we can make it any different than it is. As much as we would like to be able to ignore the realities of secular living they are not going to disappear. So, how are we to live out the contemplative part of our relationship to God and with one another?

It is now, in the reality of the present moment, that the hush of grace descends upon us. This is the time to acknowledge every anxiety, every fear, every sadness, every pain of unreconciled relationships, every unresolved crisis, every need to understand, every desire to control, and then turn them over to God and simply be still. It is in stillness and grace that we are able to recognize and to receive the greatest gift of all — the incarnation of God in Christ. What this means is not simply some theological theory, but it means that God is one with us. God is participating in the life of creation. God is directly a part of our life -- not only in a text book, not just in the Bible, not hypothetically in the words of some preacher, but, in fact, in as real a way as possible. God is in our daily life and the Holy One lives in us and with us. Now, I want you to understand that I really believe this — we live in the sure hope of the reality of the presence of God  personally and directly in the present moment.

"This is not God in a cloud, or God in a sunset, or God in tablets of stone, or God as a moral force, or God as a theological concept. Not God in a sermon or in a sacrament. But the humanization of God. The naturalness of God. The simplicity of God. The unprecedented self-communication of God."
---- H. King Oehmig

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