Christmas is just around the corner. The Gospels are preparing us for the coming of Christ...for yet another dawn...another opportunity for us to sort out our priorities in the light of the birth, life death and resurrection of Jesus.
Advent is where it starts. In the fourth century a consensus developed in the West that resulted in the celebration of Advent during the winter solstice, when the sun is least in evidence and we are faced with darkened days and plummeting temperatures. This choice reflected a natural longing for both light and warmth. And so it is, to this day, that week after week, we light a candle to symbolize the dawning, the coming of the Son of God…the Light of the world.
In this way the early Church incorporated into its liturgy the then familiar pagan rites of the sun worshiping peoples of the Northern latitudes. It was and is all about HOPE.
We are in a period of reduced economic expectations. This seems to be especially true for those who have been settled here for a generation or more. Parents no longer take it for granted that their children will enjoy a higher standard of living. Our times are also characterized by a short supply of emotional satisfaction and spiritual joy.
A person deprived of spiritual joy will often seek compensation through inordinate sensual pleasures. But the unassailable truth is that regardless of the intensity, sensual pleasure can never compensate for the lack of spiritual joy. For example: Hope is a spiritual joy and many of us are starving for it. We chase after whatever pleasure we think we can squeeze from the moment and so move more and more deeply into hopelessness and spiritual emptiness.
When will we learn? How many more Advents must we witness before we begin to understand that all of the treatment programs and penal institutions in the world will not rid us of substance abuse, hedonism and the cult of violence. These are but some of the faces of hopelessness, of systemic hopelessness in society and only the renewal of Hope will truly help.
The message of Advent is one of Hope...it is ultimately a message of love, of social justice, of sharing and caring, of universal human dignity...but it is more than a message , it is a challenge...don’t just hear it, celebrate it...live it!...give someone, a friend, a spouse, a family member, anyone...reason to hope.