Monday, December 10, 2018

Has Advent made you uncomfortable yet?

We're at a festive "Ugly Sweater" party, drinking eggnog and eating gingerbread cookies. Suddenly, a guy from the wilderness, who wears camel's hair and eats locusts, walks in. And then he calls some people a "brood of vipers"! And then he starts talking about repentance! This guy sure knows how to kill the mood, doesn't he? 

Yesterday, the Gospel at Mass was about John the Baptist. Yes, right in our cozy time of Advent, as we look to a heartwarming holiday season, we hear it proclaimed that John "went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Lk 3:3). It makes sense; John the Baptist prepared people for Christ, so we should look to him at this time. But John the Baptist does not fit the sparkly and happy month of December. 

There's nothing like curling up with a devotional near the flickering light of the Advent wreath. It's peaceful, cozy, and is a delightful activity during the cold winter days as we prepare for Christmas. On hygge-type occasions like this, I get swept up in the warmth and joy of preparing for Christ's birth. At the same time, though, I keep coming back to one particular theme in prayer: discomfort.

To an extent, Advent should be uncomfortable. We prepare for the coming of Christ-both at his birth and at his Second Coming-and this should involve a change in us. This is a time for us to turn away from sin, to stop practices that are dangerous to our souls, and to grow closer to God. This work that we do to become holier is not as cozy as a Hallmark movie or Christmasy novel. It is uncomfortable, even painful. 

On a recent morning, I read from my Advent devotional:  
"From John the Baptist we learn the desert is a place for cleansing, for conversion, for fasting, for silence, for self-discovery, and ultimately for healing. It is a place to let go of our multiple earthly attachments, making room for the Lord by allowing God to enter fully into the innermost of our lives, yes, of our broken lives in utter need of his compassion and healing." (Brother Victor-Antoine D'Avila-Latourrette, A Monastery Journey to Christmas)
 This year, my Advent has been uncomfortable. In small, little ways, I have been experiencing growing pains as I am challenged to love others better and practice virtue. I am discovering just how bad I am at praying regularly (I've managed to fall behind on Marian consecration renewal, the Jesse Tree, and my Advent devotional). I'm beginning to see how I've gotten too comfortable in some habits and need to change them, both for the health of my soul and my  body. As I prepare for the coming of Christ, I can't just sit under blankets and expect to magically become transformed at Christmastime without cooperating with God's grace. 

Today, I'm going to listen to John the Baptist. I'll try again  (and again, and again) to repent, to change my life, to love God and others better. Instead of busying my mind with how many Advent traditions I can fit in, I can focus on cultivating silence in my mind, heart, and home. I've noticed that we often don't like silence. Silence forces us to examine what's really going on inside of ourselves, and what's really going on in our homes. Yet, it is in this silence that we can hear the still, small voice of God speak. In the silence we can grow, we can heal, and we can become renewed as we await the coming of Christ. 

1 comment:

  1. You know that saying about growth never happening in your comfort zone. What an excellent post.