Chuck Bino: Encouragement from an Advent
As Christmas approaches, I’m compelled to be more positive and hopeful about political, social and economic conditions. Perhaps that’s related to Advent preparations we make as Christians for this holiday. Advent, also known as the start of the church’s thematic new year, was this 23-day period leading up to Christmas. If our secularist readers persevere, they may even agree with my intentions.
An “advent” is an anticipated “coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.” Globally, we speak of the advents of space travel and of the computer.
However, we experience “personal” advents throughout our lives. Consider the expectations, preparations, and mental exercises for the first day of your child’s schooling, the first time she’ll be away from home for extended periods, her wedding, that first home, your first grandchild, the expected loss of a loved one. To appreciate these fully, we must be adequately prepared.
Some question having even more Christmas preparations for the sometimes excessive decorations and repetitive seasonal music. The “preparations” I reference are personal, not physical in nature; they’re more cerebral, socially interactive, and possibly life changing for those who understand the true “reason for the season.” Or, isn’t Christmas mainly about the gift exchanges, parties, and being a paid federal holiday?
The Christian Advent season is less festive and more serious in contrast with the revelry taking place elsewhere at the same time. It combines both parish and personal expectations. The first expectation is that we remember the “promises” God made to Israelites though the prophet Jeremiah about a future “right and just” king (Jeremiah 33:14-16). The Babylonian captivity was a turbulent time, not unlike today, when they needed plenty of reasons to be hopeful. This prophecy was a foreshadowing of the “coming” of Christ.
A second expectation is to be introspective and understand that we can improve ourselves and make positive behavioral changes. Penance and fasting are even more severe attempts to clarify the mind and senses, but not restricted to only Christian ascetics. Actually, it can be as simple as “self realization” leading to a personal resolution.
What should follow is “reconciliation.” In the numerous uses of that term, I like the “re-establishment of a close relationship,” whether with one’s family, friend, community or God. Other definitions include the “act of restoring harmony or friendship, or the process of making compatible.” All of them apply here.
These preparations culminate for us in the joyous celebration Dec. 25 of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The community “rejoices” at His arrival and spiritual redemption of mankind.
Now, to associate the spiritual with reality:
We’ve all been in “global advent mode” for some time, and needful of “fiscal redemption.” Consider these expectations of ours and all governments, as suggested by the preparations for Christian Advent:
1. We ask that the Congress and president “remember” their promises to us as our “hopes.”
2. We ask for their “realizations” that much needs to be changed in our current course.
3. We ask that they “reconcile” with their opposition, become a “team,” and join in providing viable solutions.
4. Finally, we hope that they will give us another reason to “rejoice” following this holiday season.
Yet, there are events which defy preparation. We continue to pray for those postponing such celebrations, who still suffer physical and emotional loss; that they not despair, but receive the grace to have courage and hope, and do get the relief, assistance, and closure they deserve.
Thanks to the Rev. Joseph Zuschmidt at IHM church and his Advent homily as inspirations.
Wishing all a hopeful, blessed and merry Christmas!
Chuck Bino lives in High Point with his wife, Sue, after technical and management careers in manufacturing and retail. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.