The whole purpose of these Advent pages has been to help us find intimacy with God in the midst of our everyday lives. So we have focused on using the background times of our days to create an interior atmosphere that allows us to wait, to hope, to come into contact with our longing and our desire.
This year the Fourth Week of Advent is five days long. Thursday evening is Christmas Eve and Friday, Christmas.
Perhaps we can use these days to try to heighten our awareness of whatever is going on in our lives these days, and how that can bring us to Christmas. Some examples might help.
So many of us experience the ironic reality that Christmas can be the most lonely time of our lives. Some of these “mixed feelings” or “sad feelings” are difficult to recognize or name.
For some of us, the Christmas we will celebrate this year pales in comparison to wonderful Christmases of our past - perhaps because we were younger or more “innocent” then, perhaps because some of our loved ones who were central to our Christmas are no longer living or not where I am, perhaps because the burdens and struggles of my life or the changes in our world and the war have robbed this Christmas of something that was there before.
For some of us, Christmas will be just another day. Unable to get out to go to church to be with a faith community, and without family or friends to be with, Christmas will be a day we are tempted to ignore.
For some of us, Christmas inevitably means family conflicts. Facing the days ahead, whether it be the last few remaining parties, or conflicting demands of family and friends, or the friend or relative who drinks too much, or the experience I'm having that I drink too much and this season is an easy excuse.
For some of us, Christmas challenges us with terrible financial burdens. Children today become victims of the gross commercial exploitation of the day. For those of us struggling to make ends meet on a day to day basis, feeling the cultural pressure of buying for our children things which we can't afford, can lead us to put more debt on the credit card in ways that simply push us further and further behind.
Some of us, might be really looking forward to Christmas, and not be aware of these struggles with Christmas, yet feel that, in spite of our best efforts to make Advent different this year, there is still something missing, and we still feel unready for Christmas.
For all of us, the story behind these days can draw us in, and invite us to bring our lives to the mystery of how Jesus came into this world and why. Our best preparation for the Holy Night ahead and the Joyful Morning to follow is for us to reflect upon how he came. He came in the midst of scandal and conflict. He came in poverty. He was rejected before he was born. He was born in a feed trough. He was hunted down. And he grew up in obscurity.
He did not shun our world and its poverty and conflict. He embraced it. And he desires to embrace us today, in this day. Right where we are. Right where we are feeling most distant. Right were we are feeling least “religious” or “ready.” If we let him come into our hearts to be our Savior these challenging days, we will find ourselves entering the sacred night and morning of Christmas “joyful and triumphant” as never before.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come and visit your people.
We await your coming. Come, O Lord.