Before we know it, Advent ends – with us wondering where it went. So whatever religious tradition you follow, I would like to take this Advent season to offer a thought: Slow down.
In the Christian tradition, the readings during the season of Advent (this year, Nov. 27 to Dec. 24) contain a lot of movement – with nations streaming to the mountain of the Lord, people going to the house of the Lord rejoicing, and many going out to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. The angel Gabriel is sent to Nazareth to announce good news to Mary, who in turn goes “in haste” to her cousin Elizabeth to share that “her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior.” All of this leads to Joseph and Mary going on their journey to Bethlehem, where the Savior of the world is born. Soon shepherds and kings guided by a star will arrive to pay homage to the Prince of Peace.
Meanwhile, those of us living contemporary lives also find ourselves busy – running here and there to prepare for the holidays, searching for an empty parking spot, standing in lines at malls, or staying at home and jumping from one website to the next to find that perfect gift.
Before we know it, Advent ends – with us wondering where it went. How did it pass, once again, without us Christians “staying awake, preparing ourselves, waiting for Christ with eager expectation?”
So whatever religious tradition you follow, I would like to take this Advent season to offer a thought: Slow down.
Recall the painting “Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks. Reflect on where you are in your pilgrim journey to the holy mountain where justice flourishes, the wolf is a guest of the lamb, the calf and lion browse together, and a baby takes center stage to play by the cobra’s den. If we slow down, we have time to long for such a world.
Recent events make this difficult. Russia continues its sinful and unconscionable evil on Ukraine, Iranians are protesting a hated and oppressive regime and China’s government is confronting citizens who want freedom from intolerable COVID restrictions.
At the World Cup, the premiere event for soccer, host nation Qatar wants to quell any support for gay people, women’s rights and the like. Athletes from participating nations are using this event to protest their own intolerable regimes.
Here at home, antisemitism, white nationalism, and hate crimes are on the rise. We have four students killed at the University of Idaho, another three whose lives were cut short at the University of Virginia, then the shooting that killed five at Club Q, the only safe haven for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers in a community known for its anti-gay activism.
The U.S. is experiencing almost two mass shootings per day, and here in our own city we wonder how a place for brotherly love and sisterly affection should confront its growing violence.
So, where is this Peaceable Kingdom?
Taking time to slow down can help us recognize that violence, discord, and hatred – whether it is in our streets, churches, synagogues, families, banquet halls, or halls of Congress – debilitates us. By slowing down, we can see where we are with our own spiritual lives, and find the mercy, compassion, and desire to build that peaceable kingdom in the here and now.
For Christians, such a kingdom is how God envisions the world. The God who “so loved the world” that he sent us his only son, Jesus Christ, to show us how to live and how to love.
This is the Jesus who tended the sick, ate with tax collectors, befriended the prostitutes, the blind, the lame, and the deaf – all those who had been cancelled, unwanted, or discarded.
Slowing down at Advent can help us see when we have replaced spiritual fulfillment with pleasure, power, prestige, and money. It can help us to love the last, the least, the lost and the lonely among us.
And this is where we discover the gift of faith. Faith empowers us to live the prayer ‘thy kingdom come,” – whether that happens in cathedrals, synagogues, or mosques; in the home, the workplace, on war torn lands, or in gay night clubs.
Faith is a gift that can help us do better. It enables us to be continually forgiven, nourished, held, and kissed by our God – and convinces us that we are worthy of such infinite, unconditional love. Through our surrender, trust, and our willingness to give it a try, Advent faith enhances our humanity from selfishness to otherness, from our will to God’s will, from division to communion, from slavery to freedom, and from hatred to love.
May our faith make hope and love possible, whatever your religious tradition. Let us journey to that peaceable kingdom.
John Fisher, OSFS
Pastor, Our Mother of Consolation Parish