Let us go rejoicing! The 1st Sunday of the Advent is upon us. This beautiful season seems to rush past us in the anticipation of Christmas. I hope to slow down this year and savour the candles, the hymns and readings that remind us of the Lord’s coming. Our world and our hearts are in need of love, hope, joy and peace.
The season keeps us mindful of God’s incarnation; coming to us today, in history and in the future. The richness of the themes and symbolism are not lost on those who have childlike wonder and imagination. If you were making a movie, consider the characters and props in this timeless story; angels, messengers, prophets, animals, the wilderness, a star, an expectant mother, a voice crying “Prepare,” a message of peace and the love of a couple journeying away from their home. The beginning of the new Church year and the anticipation of the Advent season bring us to our innocence. We are invited to meet our Saviour again, and to meet our God in the humblest form, as one of us, dependent and precious.
The hymns of the Advent season are moving and haunting. The lyrics and melodies are timeless and reinforce the hope of God’s presence with us. As a musician, I have never tired of singing these hymns. They express the hope and passion of faith and the history of the relationship between God and God’s children. O come, O come, Emmanuel. Our prayers are echoed in this antiphon, calling to our God to come into our hearts in a new way: “Disperse the gloomy clouds of night.” We all have these. Many are grieving loss of the past year, disappointments or conflict. We cry out, “O Come, Emmanuel” and bring us peace. We want peace for all of humanity. Advent also invites us to rejoice. Rejoice in our God who brings unending love and hope to our broken and wounded world: “Come thou dayspring, come and cheer our spirits.”
Last year, I was in a kindergarten class during the Advent season. Children seem to truly understand and appreciate the mystery and sacredness of this time. They are fascinated by the ritual of lighting the candle, saying a prayer, listening to scripture passages and singing of God’s coming. They know that Christmas is more than the commercialism that swirls around them.
Perhaps this year, we can tune out the negative messages in the media, the pessimism that dominates the news and embrace the hope that comes to us in a newborn baby. Light the candles, sing the hymns, sprinkle purple everywhere and welcome Him with the heart of a child. Look to the night sky and contemplate the vastness of God’s love that is beyond time.
“People, look East and sing today: Love, the guest, is on the way.”
Jan Bentham is a retired Religion Coordinator with the Ottawa Catholic School Board. She is a musician, serving in music ministry at St. Ignatius Parish in Ottawa. She currently works at St. Paul’s University with the Catholic Women’s Leadership Program.