Advent starts today, and it is that season of joyful yet somber (or sober) preparation for the Nativity of our Lord. It also is a season of muted traditions that seems to be bypassed by many. In the churches the season is marked by purple vestments that hint towards Advent being a traditional season of penance, though a season much different from Lent. It is a season marked by occasional Advent wreaths, and also begins the season when Christmas lights and Nativity Scenes or crèches begin to appear. The gospel reading tell us to be vigilant . Anticipation, and warning are mentioned regarding that day which is to come, a day of judgement. Preparation and vigilance are needed. The gospel readings clearly set the tone for the season, they foretell the importance of the day to come. They give testament to the importance of Christmas.
But what about today, how do I approach that first candle. What is my vigilance? Am I alert? What is going on around me? I started this writing by telling that this is the season that many put up their Christmas lights and that Nativity scene’s begin to be assembled. One such Crèche was being erected out side a church in New York City, and that Crèche made the news. It also spoke volumes about Advent and Christmas. In the manger of that Nativity Scene a distraught mother placed her infant child. She knew no where else to place her faith and trust, so she placed it in that Nativity. All ended well, the child was discovered and the Nativity was declared a safe haven. The mother placed her faith in the same God that we are preparing to receive, and one can thank God that Crèche was there.
In another part of New York a similar story did not end so well. That story ended in tragedy, with an infants homicide discovered in a dumpster and a distraught, confused, bloodied mother charged with the death of her infant. So sad that a crèche was not prepared for her, that a community was not vigilant, and that faith and trust in Christ could not be found. Sober, vigilant preparation could have saved a life. This season is about vigilance, sobriety, and preparation. Advent is about preparing to receive a child, the Christ Child. Might Advent also be a fitting season to remember those who are receiving children, whether they are prepared or not?
The third story of this the first week of Advent had to do with a mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic. In that tragedy there is the death of two fathers and an unnamed third person by a deranged and unstable drifter. In that story there is the compound tragedy of abortion, and the senseless actions of that deranged drifter. The Advent message of vigilance and preparation were missed in this story too.
All three stories took place on this the first weekend of Advent. All three stories involved receiving children. It was only the first story that had a positive outcome, and that story remarkably included the details of someone preparing a Nativity Scene. Sometimes being vigilant and alert can be as simple to reading a newspaper, and searching for where Christ can be found and where that Christ Child is needed.
Advent is about more that stringing lights, or shopping, or preparing for a celebration. It might include being vigilant and alert to our surroundings today, and preparing a ray of light for others. It might be about constructing a Crèche today to receive a child in the form of a Safe-Haven. It might be about helping people receive children in the way Christ preached with physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and even financial support. Advent doesn’t have to be an abstract season. Preparation to receive a child can be very real.