I love the Church’s new year – In this year of Mark the season of Advent begins with the imperative to ‘Be on your guard’, ‘Stay awake’, ‘Be alert’ ‘Don’t be caught asleep’. There is a great urgency in the language, there is no time for sitting back and taking ones time, considering all the options and then coming to a reasonable decision. Now is the time for action.
Wow! It sounds like the Governments response to the Credit Crunch. The difference being that our Government’s urgency is based on the belief that we are all consumers and that our whole economic viability depends on us becoming successful consumers. We kind of sleepwalked into the Credit Crunch by being encouraged to live way beyond our means. Now we are encouraged to become more alert consumers, spending with a purpose to kick start the economy. A pragmatic solution designed to bring about a brighter economic future.
Surely the Advent directives don’t belong to the same pragmatic camp. They certainly challenge us to:
BE ON OUR GUARD
To what purpose?
Getting ready for Christmas! Granted not the consumer Christmas symbolized by Santa, who year by year has a go at elbowing the infant child out of the crib, but for the celebration of the amazing truth that ‘God loved us so much that he sent his son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent his Spirit into our hearts, crying “Abba Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.’ (Galatians 4:4-7) The great truth is that we already are the children of God, we already have the Spirit of God deep within us, enabling us to address God as “Abba! Father!” We are already heirs – the problem is that we sometimes miss this reality and live as if these great truths weren’t true.
Advent is a time not so much of preparing for Christmas but of longing. A deep longing that we might become what we already are – children of God. Those of us who were fortunate enough to hear the vision of Dr Martin Luther King whose dream of a future where children of different religions and different colour would walk hand in hand had our imaginations captured. We knew that when he spoke of climbing the mountain and looking into the valley and seeing the future – he was speaking of the present and calling on his community and society to change. It was an Advent speech inviting all to be alert, to stay awake and not to be found asleep – the future calling to action in the present.
The prayers used in the celebration of the Rite of Welcome or the Order of the Catechumenate are profoundly Advent prayers:- particularly the signing of the senses where past present and future come together in a great embrace.
“Receive the sign of the cross on your ears,
that you may hear the voice of the Lord.”
“Receive the sign of the cross on your lips.
That you may respond to the word of God” etc etc
Each prayer is an invitation to Be Alert, Be Awake, Be on your Guard. Be Advent people – don’t miss the moment.