Let Advent Break Your Heart
Maybe it's the waning light and earlier evenings as we head into winter. Or the book I just read on the effects of environmental toxins on fetal development and breast milk quality. Or the upcoming anniversary of the Newtown shootings. Whatever the reasons, as we enter Advent, I am increasingly aware of the darkness of this world into which I am bringing my child, due any day now.
It's a deeply disturbing realization. Welcome, little one, to a place where kids are shot in schools and on street corners, wars rage, and corporate interests often trump the common good. The things I see and hear about every day rattle my heart with worry.
Growing up with an overprotective mother, I told myself would never be that fearful and worried about my own children. Now, I realize it is only natural. The small fists and knees jabbing my insides put my inner mother-bear on 24/7 high-alert. I am always on the prowl for potential threats to my child's well-being.
My instinct is to do everything in my power to keep out danger, but if I think I can find a cave isolated enough to protect this child of mine from all the threats this world brings, I am sorely mistaken. I would also be resisting the Advent call to stare darkness in the face and keep being present, holding out hope for something more powerful than death.
Our God did what every mother would shudder to do. He sent his child directly into the heart of evil with no protection, save faith, hope, and extravagant love. God the Father did not shelter Jesus from the terror and loss of living in our broken, bleeding world. He chose instead to be present with us, to enter into our pain. During Advent, as we prepare our hearts for the arrival of the vulnerable Christ child, our call is to likewise look pain and darkness full on.
I'd rather not. I'd rather think that I am somehow immune from tragedy. That, if I am protective, vigilant, and well-informed enough, my baby will not develop cancer or get shot walking to school. Like the wealthy residents of Elysium, I'd rather escape to a pristine man-made planet if things on earth get too nasty, or at least carve out my little sheltered corner of the world where bad things can't come in, where my baby is safe. Yet, that is not the Advent call. The Advent call goes against all natural instincts: Don't escape. Don't self-protect. Enter in. Be present.
Why on earth would we do that? Faced with the weight of our human condition, won't we collapse under the grief? Won't our hearts be crushed? It's easier to go on living if we just look the other way, pretend like things are not so bad, and say under our breath, "That won't happen to me or my loved ones."
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