When I was a teenager I used to attend the Fisherman’s House charismatic prayer and praise meeting in Hampton, VA. This was a non-denominational, neo-pentecostal Christian youth group, evangelical in its theology. On the meeting just before Christmas, the leader of the group commented that “we don’t particularly observe Christmas, because any day can be the day when Christ is born in someone’s heart.”
That observation has always stuck with me. And even though I love the liturgical year and am very happy to celebrate Christmas as the Feast of the Nativity, I see this as a both/and scenario: we can celebrate the actual holiday as appointed by the liturgical calendar, and we can rejoice at how Christ is continually coming, continually finding new “birth” in the hearts of those who love him.
St. Benedict said that the life of a monk should be a continual lent. As a Lay Cistercian, I have taken this idea to heart. Of course, we Lay Cistercians insist that Lent is not a morose time, but a time of joy as we continually give ourselves to God and continually turn back toward the Divine Mystery.
If life is a continual lent, perhaps this means we are preparing for a continual Easter: a continual time of rebirth and renewal and resurrection, not limited to the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, but occuring whenever anyone experiences a rebirth of hope, of love, of compassion in their hearts. Just as Christ is continually being born, so is he continually bursting forth in new, unexpected, unplanned, unpredicted life — life that cannot be safely contained in the calendar of the church year!
So, if we are called to a continual lent in preparation of that ever-present Easter, ought not we see our lives as a time of continual advent, in watchful waiting for that ever-present Christmas? If every day is a day when the hope and love of Christ can be born anew in the hearts of those who love him, then every day is a time of expectancy and of hope. And just as the church commends to us advent as a time of contemplation and, yes, of joyful penitence, so we can join the monks in their continual lent by making every day of our lives a continual advent.
Let us join together, in watching and waiting for the coming of God. Let us join together in turning back to God. Let us celebrate the ever-new ways we give birth to the Divine Image in our lives, every day. And let us celebrate all the ways in which that same Divine Image breathes new life in us and through us.
Amen and amen.