Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
Each year, the Advent season calls us to remember, to reflect, to await in anticipation, to focus by slowing down, to wonder.
And yet – from year to year we find that in some seasons we seem better at doing these things than in others. Sometimes we are so busy that we can’t really slow down. It might be our school or job or all the tasks we line up during the holiday season, or might be just our mindset. But it might be, instead, our care-taking obligations – for a parent, a spouse, a child. Or it might be that we have experienced loss or pain that stands in the way. Has there been a death of a family member or close friend? Has there been a broken relationship that mis-colors everything in sight? Has there been physical pain that nags (or worse) every day?
My tendency – like yours, I suspect – is to feel ashamed or guilty when I’m not “doing it right” during Advent. (Perhaps we feel this even in those years when we start following Advent readings but find ourselves struggling to stay current with them!). That’s the wrong response of course, but when I know how I should be responding and I’m not doing it, there’s dissonance.
Our faith reminds us, however, that the heart of this season is grace. Yes, God calls us to reflect and wonder, to remember and ponder. But, at core, the message of Advent is that grace has come to be among us. It isn’t a matter of us having to pay the right kind of attention and experience grace rightly, or to learn more things and remember and understand it properly. The grace is just there. Period.
The grace comes from God, in the tiny person of a helpless baby born in a down-trodden land, in a far-off and tucked-away village, to a seemingly inconsequential young couple in a place with oppressive rulers. Grace comes to us, just as it came then, in the hardest of times and the hardest of places. Grace comes to us and finds us, even if we struggle to find it or see it. Grace comes to us.
However you are experiencing this Advent season, may you rest in the peace and grace of Christ.
Joel A. Nichols, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor, School of Law