Welcome! Welcome! I shed tears of gratitude and joy that you have come round again, O Advent, to shake us from our torpor as early night comes, and the match is struck, and the message is brought home once more; that we are forever in the absence of light; it is beyond us and exterior until we make it welcome and bring it, like a lover, within. Welcome into our deepest void, welcome into the parts of us touched by human frost and stunted. Welcome, O Light, beaming glorious, into remotest apertures of our souls, rays aglow, warmth permeating where we have left old fires unattended and embers to wane, and our abysses to grow chill, and uninhabitable. Welcome light; dispelling illusion, and chasing old ghosts to rest.
With the sunset tonight, the promise is renewed; the story begins again. The beginning; quiescence, empty and void. Then movement; an annunciation; a Word -one boundless, vibrant “yes” that shakes creation; “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God, my savior!” Soon their will be dreams, and silent wondering, and a gathering, and a starry night rent with song. The Word Present penetrates lonely, lost humanity, and enters into the pain and fear, the tumult and whirlwind; He and sets His tent with us not merely dwelling among, but literally with us; with hunger, with the capacity for injury and doubt -with enough vulnerability to be broken- and within this espousal, everything is illuminated!
At The Catholic Answer I write:
Right now, a star is shining brightly; a people are moving toward the places from whence they came; a young woman is great with child; wise men are lifting their eyes to heaven and wondering. The place of our own origin, from whence we came, beckons; it sends a flare as a guide! And the One who is All in All is moving toward us — in breathtaking humility — to show us the way back.
Like Mary, we are great with expectation, and wonder how can this be? Heaven reaching down in song and succor, to cradle the earth; Creator, come down among us, not to observe or direct, but to inhabit and serve. In his lowly, vulnerable birth, God comes as bridegroom, wedding himself to us — divinity to humanity — and shares with us that most intimate privilege of marriage, the joining of two into one, the mutual dependence, the mutual commitment — and nothing can ever be the same.
I have a friend whose mother, after a stroke, had very limited speech. If she wanted to wish you well, or express happiness for you, she would say “Merry Christmas!” It meant everything good, everything full of love.
As we light our first candle of Advent, let us move forward in humble adventuring, seeking out the divine “Yes” spoken from heaven and the faith-filled “yes” whispered on earth. Let us strike a match and cover our faces in prayer, that the lifting up of our hands be as an evening sacrifice, acceptable. Let us eat figs and drink wine, and work faithfully at our labor, and sweep and sing and slumber, until we gather with shepherds and kings, to meet, and to worship, and to tell what we have found.
Then, if we have only “Merry Christmas” to say for the rest of our lives, all around will understand how packed with meaning is the phrase.