We've also been reading and reflecting together on an Advent and Christmas mediation book - with words written by Henri Nouwen. So last night, after Evening Prayer, we spent about 40 minutes talking about Advent, what we'd read, and this very busy season. We talked quite a lot last night about some of Henri's reflections on finding peace - and moments to pray - in the midst of a world that want to hurry us along.
As I left last night, though, I thought more about what it means for us to find moments to act - moments to care - moments to stand up for our neighbors in a world that wants to tell us that we don't have to care. Think about all of the social movements in our country right now - about Black Lives Matter - about the hate speech that is developing right now around our Muslim brothers and sisters. You might think, too, about how this affects immigrants and refugees. Not to mention our normal, more run-of-the-mill problems - the phobias and -isms of the world. Especially in this season, the world tries to hurry us along - hoping that we won't notice the injustice - and believing that we won't do anything about it.
As Christians, our faith calls us not only to see - but to speak - and to act. I think this season calls us not only to steal away to be with God. Not only are we invited to find moments to pray - and to pull away from a secular world that is driven by commerce and greed. I think this season also calls us to find those moments when we can change the conversation. Moments when we can call out people like Donald Trump on their hate speech - moments we can remember together the last time we started counting non-Christians - and the Holocaust that ensued. If Advent is truly a season of preparing - then it is not just limited to our personal preparation - that, too, is a simplification based on our culture and our inclination to focus on ourselves.
Advent is also a season that reminds us we're supposed to be preparing not only our hearts - but the world - for the coming of Christ. And that means that our preparing ought to include us using our voices - speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. That preparation includes us doing some justice-building, some mercy-teaching, some happiness-making for our neighbors. We can start by remembering that Jesus and his own family fled violence and oppression - and they found no room at the Inn. We can also remember that our sacred texts, those we share with other faiths, teach us that we were all created in the image of God - so we can find God's face, God's image, in the faces of our neighbors; and this should call us to do something - to say something - and to not just be bystanders who choose not to see.
Steal away. Yes, please. Make space and time for quiet - and for God. Listen and wait for the coming of the Christ child. But don't stop there. Let this season also be one that calls you to deeper compassion - and a greater awareness of your part - your unique role - in creating a more peaceful, more just world. It happens in little ways - in each thing we say and do - and in those things we choose not to say and do. Advent is a time to prepare your heart - and the world - to welcome peace. Don't be fooled by the rush - tricked into looking away from the work to be done - the children of God who need our love and solidarity.
We are the candles - the light - that God sends into the darkness around us. We shine, if we choose to do so, with the light of Christ that the world so badly needs to see. Shine that light - use it wisely - because it has the power to change the world.