“We walk by Faith, not by sight.”
2 Cor 5: 7
Advent is the Church’s season of preparation. For many of us it is the season of maximum pressure and expectation. The demands on us can feel enormous, and the desire to make the ones we love, and those around us, happy can become unbearable. It can also be the saddest time of year for those who have lost loved ones. All this is not helped by the short days and the long dark nights. For those who try and walk with God, this dark time can be helpful. It accustoms us to walk by Faith, to place our Trust in God and endeavour to strengthen our Spiritual life. It is a time for deepening our relationship with Jesus. We await His coming. So we say, and pray, Maranatha – ‘Come Lord Jesus, come’: Come into the dark corners of our lives, and minds. Make us ready to receive the ‘Light of Life’. Your Coming at Christmas, brings.
You will see that our church was bathed in purple light (the seasonal colour for Advent). Purple represents a Penitential spirit. The season of Advent is really a ‘little’ Lent – a time set aside for perfecting our relationship with God and getting our lives in balance, so that when Jesus comes at Christmas we can be ready to meet Him. You will notice that purple is also the ‘dark’ light that allows us to walk in Faith trusting in God. It is very much like the ultra violet light that allows our fluorescent jackets to fluoresce, so that we can be seen in the dark. It allows us to see God’s light, rather than the world’s light which is a light that can draw us into temptation.
Temptation is a four stage process:
The first stage is suggestion, it is the moment our heart considers the possibility of doing something that may hurt us, or someone. We will know that the thought is harmful because it will disturb our inner peace. When we enter into dialogue with this thought, if we cannot neutralise it, we are in danger of being overcome by it. It is at this point that we consent and make a personal decision that will contradict the will of God. If we consent to things on a regular basis then we are lost to our passion (a vice). This whole process can only be overcome by struggle at the very early stages. If we begin immediately we have a hope of defeating the suggestion (desire). This is why Advent is a season of Watching and Waiting. We watch over ourselves and our relationships, and exercise a discipline in which we may have grown slack. On the run up to Christmas there are many types of temptation to be overcome: personal, physical, food, money and possessions. These are areas which can define our humanity but can lead to idolatry. Our lives need to be ordered and disciplined if we are to resist temptation. Celebrating the Eucharist can help us here as we bring our lives in common with others before God. It is a life shared with God and with others. We are no longer cut off and alone. God is with us – the Emmanuel of Christmas!
Advent is a time of Perseverance and Patience. We need to be realistic about ourselves. Our spiritual journey needs to be authentic. Our lives may appear dark and hopeless, yet the dark light of Faith will guide us home, if we are open to God and His message of Love and Forgiveness. We will learn that God accepts us with all the limitations that make up our identities as human beings. Our spiritual life unfolds in our hearts. It is here that our desires and decisions take place. It is in the depths of our heart that our Christian identity is formed.
Use this time in Advent wisely. As St Paul writes: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” 2 Cor 13: 5 The goal of the spiritual life is our participation in the life of God. As Gregory Nazianzen wrote “God became man so that man could become God.”
Step out in Faith. The darkness will be overcome by The Light! Walk Patiently. Persevere. “We walk by Faith, not by sight!”