CONTENT TO REJOICE
“John was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light” – Jn. 5:34
You know how every so often something becomes “a thing" and you start to see it repeatedly? That thing this year, for me (which probably says something about my Churchnerd FB feed), has been the “right” way to do Advent (#adventing). The articles keep reminding that, though also purple, Advent is not a penitential season, as Lent is. It is a time of expectant joy.
Both of our kids were spring babies, so Jen was pregnant during Christmas each time. Just like waiting for our babies, our liturgical waiting is full of similar excitement, with cards and decorations. It's also full of anxiety: will I be a good Dad? Will they be healthy? As is the hope for Jesus’ return: Would I be ready to stand in front of him? Does He really hear the cries of the poor? Where is all this peace on Earth, good will toward men?
Isaiah’s vision is a beautiful one, of a loving God who welcomes the foreigner and approves of the sacrifice. But it also provokes impatience with his promises of God’s justice, “about to be revealed.” When, God? Recently, I heard Chris Stefanick speak. He imagined aloud someone asking God, “Why are there so many starving children.” The response he imagines from God, “I was about to ask you the same thing.” Advent is like John, announcing Jesus, confronting us with God’s closeness. I don’t want to be content in its light, but in a greater testimony.
When I first started reflecting on these readings, I was caught up in the anxiety on the one side and the consolation on the other; between what is and what we are promised. As I struggled with this tension, I found my attention drawn not to either pole, but square in the middle: on the Incarnation and all its seeming contradictions. That my kids are both a challenge and an unimaginable joy is not a contradiction, any more than the Cradle that leads to the Cross. When I try to hold in my imagination the broken and the blessed, the world becomes Eucharist again.