We have just entered another season of Advent, and already I am leaning toward the Winter Solstice and beyond. Feeling hemmed in and confined by a winter of COVID that has barely begun; yearning for spring and an end to limitations and restrictions, even as we all get a bit more used to them—wondering what a mask-less world where we can again embrace and be together with each other, will be like at the other end.
But, sticking to the here and now for a moment. Following the annual (and this year very out of the ordinary) Thanksgiving celebration (traditionally more turkey, Santa parades, and football than heartfelt, prayer-full giving thanks for many), Advent arrives. This liturgical season of waiting in the growing dark for the coming of the light and Word-made-flesh. I have recently been pondering how curious it is that we translate that to read “made human” and forget all the rest of creation which is as clothed in the flesh of God’s presence in the world as we are.
During these December days, we wait for the “One” who is already here; who also waits for us to tear ourselves away from the myriad of competing distractions, and notice the Holy which surrounds us. And, of course, this year we wait for a promised vaccine, our hoped-for savior, to bring life back to normal.
But I do find myself wondering what “normal” will look like, having moved through these days. I’d like to believe the acrimony and division will begin to heal, not just go back underground or get taken to the streets in destructive ways. I’d like to believe that we will truly recognize the impending danger of radical and life-threatening climate change, and take serious and realistic steps to change our life style to a more sustainable one. I’d like to believe we will return to welcoming the stranger (read immigrant, refugee), the “widow and orphan”; to feeding the starving across the globe; to freeing those unjustly imprisoned; and doing the hard work of recognizing how white privilege and systemic racism have manifested in our own lives, communities and institutions.
If I were going to write a letter to Santa, these are the things I’d be asking to find—however imperfect or untidy the wrappings—under our Christmas tree this year.
The more realistic alternative is to put this litany of needs into my prayer-bowl and pray daily for the courage and strength, the increase in love and compassion, to work on my own conversion of heart, my own being and doing for earth and justice, before asking that of anyone else.
There’s room in the prayer-bowl for your needs and hopes. I would love to have you join me in this.
About the Author
Sister Christine Parks, CSJ, serves as a Spiritual Director, and occasional retreat/program presenter online and in Kalamazoo. She also works with the Congregation’s Protect & Heal Earth initiative and sustainability efforts. Leisure activities include gardening, long walks in nature, reading, writing poetry.