27 November 2011 Life

Reflections on Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the lead-up to Christmas that’s steeped in religious tradition. Growing up, my mum would bring out four candles and light them in sequence as each Sunday arrived, bringing us closer and closer to December 24th with each puddle of wax.

This was a cultural, rather than a spiritual practice for me; much like baking gingerbread or putting those kitschy Swedish wooden horses by the fireplace. But I saw Advent from a more spiritual perspective when today, at church, it was juxtaposed with Jesus’ warning of his second coming.

At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that he is near, right at the door.

[…]

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.

— Mark 13:26-29

It’s an unconventional passage to be quoting during Advent, when we’re supposed to be thinking of sweet baby Jesus and wise men following the star to Bethlehem. But Advent is about anticipating the arrival of the messiah - so it’s not a huge leap from Jesus’ end-times speech.

It’s that image of actively waiting, being on guard, being alert, that got me thinking. This kind of eager anticipation means that everybody I meet, every sight I see, every rock and tree and bug, has the potential to be Jesus incarnate.

This goes beyond “treat others as yourself” and “we are all children of God”. If everyone and everything is a potential Jesus, I have to be prepared to love those things and people unconditionally. I must see the good in everyone. I must see the Jesus in everyone.

What if anticipating Christ’s return means living as if he has already manifested himself in everything I see and touch and feel? Do I have the ability to love the world in this way? To devote myself to the world and everything in it? Maybe I do, if Christ is also manifested in me.

Sam Nabi

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