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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Welcome, Advent

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent, my favorite season of the traditional church year.

Why Advent? Perhaps it rooted in my psyche during the build-ups to Christmas in my childhood. If so, then I got it half-right. Advent is indeed about expectation -- but not of material gifts, although one can understand why contemporary culture leads children to see it that way. Nor is Advent a manifestation of the Carly Simon song Anticipation, although her waiting to go on a date was a loftier motive than goodies from Saks.

Nor is Advent a fuzzy conviction that something better for us is just around the corner. The truth is, we live in a fallen world today -- or a world where "original sin" or animalistic self-interest are common, if you prefer those terms -- and we will live in exactly the same world tomorrow. Techno-utopists believe that humanity is on an upward trajectory, fueled by science. I'm grateful for the advances of science, but so far I haven't seen a pharmaceutical, a smartphone app, or a better mousetrap overcome greed, lust, and fear.

Now that I've said what Advent is not, I'll say what Advent is (for me): a CTRL-ALT-DEL to the starting point for spirituality, where we understand ourselves to be part of Creation and to be invited into direct and perpetual relationship by the loving Creator. As we accept this invitation, albeit haltingly and often doubtfully, we come to understand the Gospel of what this relationship is and how we live in it. The richness of the relationship -- Incarnation, Expiation, Resurrection, Baptism and Eucharist, etc -- sometimes overwhelms or eludes us, while our animal nature and our day-to-day tasks distract us; yet we move forward joyfully and purposefully towards an undefinable destiny within the love of God.

Advent is my point of entry into this process of life, in the fullest sense. And at my funeral, I'd like the priest to wear an Advent stole.