Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Thanksgiving evening, as my son stared into a fire that was burning in the fireplace, he said something that I thought was pretty revealing:
“We give thanks on Thanksgiving for all that we have, and then we rush out to go shopping on Black Friday because we have to have more.”
I’ve been reflecting upon his comment over the last few days as we soon will enter into the season of Advent. The days are darkening, the weather itself makes us draw inward, and yet, there is a madness to this season for going into debt, for buying what we can’t afford, for “getting and spending,” as Wordsworth wrote in poem The World is Too Much with Us. The pressure is on to show our love for our loved ones through the gifts we give.
Wordsworth wrote, “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers.” Of course this is the season for such consumerism. Sometimes I think, do my children or grandchildren even remember what I bought them last Christmas?
What powers is Wordsworth talking about? I believe he’s talking about our power to create and be creative; our power to be more hospitable to nature and neighbor. Our power to live into the call that is on our lives to be God-with-skin-on to a world that is suffering a great emptiness within.
“Getting and Spending” are great ways to distract ourselves from this season of anticipation for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. More than ever, we live in a world of distractions. I ran into someone recently who said to me that they are disengaging from so many things that vie for her time—Facebook being one of them. Too much time was being swallowed up, never to be redeemed again.
Why do we tolerate such distractions, such time robbers? My guess is that we are afraid of the emptiness that might be within us, an emptiness that Christ wants to fill, that only Christ can fill.
Blaise Pascal wrote: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
During Kathy Field’s recovery from recent eye surgery she said that for two weeks laying on her back, unable to read or watch television, she did a lot of talking and listening to God. She said, “I experienced the most profound sense of God’s presence with me.” Isn’t this what we all long for, deep down?
I was reminded of the verse in Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Maybe that is what most people are afraid of—acknowledging the true, ever pervasive presence of God.
During this season of Advent, of waiting, I want to encourage us all, and be encouraged, to sit quietly, to reflect, to examine our lives, to simplify them, to focus them on what is most important. To see within ourselves the birthing of God with us, God in us, and all that this means for our individual lives. To invite Christ into any emptiness we are carrying around, or denying even exists.
May we attend to our deepest need for God during this season, and to others who yearn for the Christ child to be born in them.