Witnessing the Light
Advent is when we sense a ‘great coming’ on the horizon. In this year of pandemic, light in the form of a vaccine has appeared in the darkness of Covid-19, and the joy of relief is felt. In a time of climate emergency, however, we still wait in hope. Joy and hope, gifts of the Spirit, are at the heart of the season of Advent. The self-effacing John the Baptist shows up on this 3rd Sunday to direct our attention to the mysterious ‘One coming after him’, who is already moving among us, but unrecognised – cf. JOHN 1, 26.
Advent is a gestation time, a waiting for something new to be born. To more fully enter into its meaning we need to quieten down, like the season does in the northern hemisphere, with its longer nights and bare trees and colder weather, and invitations to stay indoors and with less partying because of the current pandemic. A little enforced stay-at-homeness need not be seen as a trial so much as an invitation to a deeper and more contemplative time in anticipation of the Great Coming.
Jesus came/comes into a world of brokenness and darkness; one marked by incredible levels of hunger, poverty and neglect, and with people crying out for justice and deliverance. ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me… He sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken…’ ISAIAH 61, 1. These words of the Advent prophet offer hope. Ladislaus Boros sj reminds us that ‘There is a hidden source of salvation in the world that can begin to flow at any time…there is a way from darkness into light; there is a light shining in the darkness of the night.’
Christmas is not so much about the birth of the baby Jesus as it is about the birth of the Son of God going on in us. That is the Coming we wait for, the Happening we hope for, and the Light in the tunnel of our darkness. The 14th century German spiritual master Meister Eckhart put it this way: ‘What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God and I don’t give birth to the Son of God in my person and my time and my culture?’ Eckhart’s questions invite us to see humanity, and not Bethlehem, as the true birthplace of God on earth.
Fr. QQ – 12/9/2020