Most people dislike change, so we may cringe at the thought of it. We like the "status quo" that has settled upon us because we can handle the routine better than having to be challenged by newness. It takes more work, more energy, to handle newness. It can challenge us in ways we do not want to be challenged. "I am way too busy for this new thing," we think. What we may be intending with this thought is, “Bah, Humbug! I will not move from my comfort zone." Or it might be the attitude of: "I do not like where I am at, but the devil I know is better than the one I don't, so I am not budging." Either way, change is difficult for most of us, even if we secretly welcome it deep down.
Change means letting go, which is often very difficult. We may need to let go of a loved one in death, or we may need to let go of that which is convenient for us. We may need to learn a new way of doing things or a completely new task. We may have to change an attitude, which is the most difficult adjustment of all. Either way, change is part of life and there is nothing we can do to stop what is out of our control. But what we can do is to learn to acknowledge the reality that change will happen and to ask the Holy Spirit for the gifts of perseverance, flexibility, and acceptance. While there are things we can and should work against, such as changes that are not good for us or our world, we also need to realize that we are in a constant state of flux all of our lives. We cannot stop time and we should not stop the inner growth that comes with change.
Advent is a time of sitting with Joseph who, already betrothed to the woman Mary, was told by her that she was pregnant, but not by any man. His world suddenly changed as he prayed about how to deal with this situation. He was open to God, and so while God explained it he, too, said yes; his world was indeed completely changed as he attempted to drink in what was really happening. There had to be the same joy as Mary had, but also some confusion as to how to bring this about. No doubt as he sat with God in prayer he realized that God was in control of the situation, so he needed not fear. It was not about his convenience or Mary's. It was not about how he had envisioned marriage to this woman or about how he had dreamed about having children with her. It was about God's plan and God's wisdom. In Advent we can bring our own situations into the space where Mary and Joseph found themselves, bringing our own thoughts of how things would go, our expectations and desires, discovering that God's way may be mysterious, but that it has purpose, even if that purpose is way beyond us at present.
Advent invites us into newness within our own hearts. What is stale and dusty can be renewed and spruced up. We can allow the joy of His coming to invade our hearts. We can allow the Star of Bethlehem to begin to rise within us, shedding light on what needs to be changed in order for new life to thrive within us once again. The light of that star can help us to let go of what needs to be let go of, so that those people or attitudes which we need to free can move on and transfigure as well. Advent is a type of transfiguration event, though more subtle, more gradual: that which was hidden will become visible and present among us in a new, more powerful way.
Advent is a gift. Let us accept such a great gift as a time of preparation so that what follows will not overwhelm us. If we allow the changes needed within us to already take root, when the challenges become stronger, we will already be armed with faith, hope, love, and the Peace which will guide us through even the strongest of storms. Marana tha! Our Lord, come! O Lord Jesus, come soon!
May we have the gift of joyful expectation which comes to us with Advent! May we open our hearts to the pregnancy of waiting and the acceptance of the changes pregnancy brings! May we be filled with the Spirit anew, especially with the graces we need for the journey ahead! May Advent open our hearts to Love! And may we cry with full voices, “Marana tha! Our Lord, come!” Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the Lord of Love, the One who teaches us to wait! Peace! (And Happy Thanksgiving, too!)
The top picture is one I took a few years ago at Lost Maples State Park in the hill country in Texas.
The icons are by Rev. William Hart McNichols. The first is called The Mother of God Overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. (It is one of my favorites.) It can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/gallery-views/mother-of-god-gallery/product/29-the-mother-of-god-overshadowed-by-the-holy-spirit
The second icon is called St. Joseph and the Holy Child and can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/gallery-views/holy-men-icons/product/50-st-joseph-and-the-holy-child.
The last is of the Visitation. (sent by a friend, unknown in origin)
© Michele L. Catanese