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Week Four of Advent – A Reflection

December 21, 2022
Really daddy? Me cause trouble? 😹

It is the Fourth Week of Advent and we are in the final days of preparation here at the church for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and even New Years Day worship and bulletin preparations along with the January church newsletter. It is also a hectic time of the year at home as menus are finalized, groceries are bought, goodies are baked, and Christmas gifts are purchased. There is also the added challenge of Christmas tree decorating with a lively kitty who is experiencing her first Christmas with us. Stella seems to think that the tree is for climbing, the ornaments are her toys, and the tree skirt is her personal blanket and play area! Needless to say, a lot of the Christmas decorations we usually have out aren’t being put out and the fragile ornaments are not being put on the tree. Yes, Christmas will be different this year. But in another sense it will be the same for me. I am struggling to “get the Christmas spirit” before the Christmas Eve service and I’m fighting off exhaustion and depression. So I guess you could say that I need to pause and remember what this is all about.

I believe we need to be reminded what the Advent and Christmas seasons represent in the liturgical year and in our lives. Thomas Merton wrote the following in his book Seasons of Celebration: Meditations on the Cycle of Liturgical FeastsThe Advent of Christ in history is not essentially bound up with the development and progress of a Christian “civilization.” “Christendom” is, and has been a great thing, but it has never been an absolute and unqualified good or an end in itself. “Christendom” is not “Christianity.” It is not “the Kingdom” and it is not the Mystical Christ. The reality of Christian culture certainly flows from the presence of Christ in the world, but it is not identical with that presence. (p. 73)

In a day where people get upset over the phrase “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” and declare that there is a war on Christmas, we need to hear Merton’s words over and over again. In a time where there is a call for christian nationalism (both words are intentionally lower case) with its “marriage” of church and state, I find Merton’s words to be a good touchstone for me. Christendom is no more the same as Christianity than Christian culture is the same as Christ.

What is this season about? As I was working on this blog this afternoon at the office, I found myself looking at this icon that hangs above my desk. It is a Russian Icon of Mary: The Protectress of the Oppressed. The protectress of the oppressed. This is the season where we remember the birth of Jesus. This is the season where we are called to remember that he was the one who came to turn over the tables of oppression and challenge the religious authorities who were more interested in power and prestige than caring for all of God’s children, especially those whom society ignored.

Jesus turned the economy upside down with the poor being satisfied and the rich being sent away empty handed. Jesus continues to call us to build the kin-dom (kin instead of king) of God here on earth as it is in heaven. We are being called by Jesus to build a kin-dom of love, justice, mercy, and peace. This journey began over 2,000 years ago when a tiny baby was born and laid in a manger in Bethlehem.

Thomas Merton wrote the following reflection in a piece titled “The Time of the End is the Time of No Room” in his book Raids on the Unspeakable. Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ comes uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst. (pages 72-73)

Perhaps, dear reader, we are being called to be a different sort of witness in this broken world. For me it means being a Christ-follower who doesn’t buy into the “christian” status quo. Perhaps it means making room in this world for those whom religion and society has said don’t belong. Perhaps this is the message of Advent and Christmas. It certainly gives me a lot to ponder as I walk through these final days of Advent and continue to prepare for Christmas.

  1. pynkoski2 permalink

    What a stunning image. Thank you.

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