I love this time of year; there is something special about Christmas and the weeks leading up to it. I love the darker evenings and the Christmas lights that decorate towns and homes. I love the colder weather with the excuse to bring out the knitwear and drink lots of Hot Chocolate, complete with mini marshmallows. I love that satisfying feeling of pressing play on the Christmas playlist. But, trumping everything, my favourite thing about this time of year is Advent.
We’re almost halfway through Advent and again I am blown away by God’s faithfulness. I love how at this time of year we hear the same promises from Isaiah at Mass; we hear again and again of God’s faithfulness, and are reminded to trust in his plans. Advent is again that time to renew our trust in God and what he will do. It is a time of learning to wait.
As Catholics we can get very good at ‘doing’. Standing and sitting and kneeling and ‘with your spirit’ing. I love the regularity and rhythm of the Church, but it can sometimes mean that we do it just because it’s what you do, and miss the whole point of why we are doing it in the first place. Advent is a time to stop, to be still and to wait in anticipation for what God will do.
Yes, I love this time of year, but I also find it so hard. I struggle with waiting and trusting in God’s plans that everything will be okay in the end. Especially when in the here and now I can see no way of it turning out okay in the end.
But this is where the beauty of Advent really starts to shine through. This is where I really start to appreciate the gift that Mary is to me and all of humanity. I remember again the joyful mysteries and am privileged enough to journey alongside the Mother of God in her joys and sufferings, in her fears and hopes. I sit as she ponders in her heart the meaning of such a message; I watch as she completely trusts God with her body and soul; I walk with her as she journeys to visit Elizabeth and the wisdom and companionship that she finds there. By journeying with Mary during Advent, it completely changes the whole Christmas story for me. When I feel unworthy, Mary reminds me I have been chosen. When I feel overwhelmed, Mary reminds me it is important to journey with others. When I worry about how things will turn out, Mary reminds me that the solution to fear is trust in God.
Advent is a time of waiting, of learning to be patient and wait for God’s timing. It is also a time to learn to trust more and more deeply, that ‘nothing is impossible for God’ and to learn that when God makes us a promise we can be certain that he will be faithful to his word.
I was thinking about this again today. Today at noon, a ‘wave’ of prayer passed over us. Pope Francis called for an international prayer to end world hunger, so across the world on 10th December 2013 at noon in every respective time zone people prayed for an end to world hunger. And I am sat here in my office, thinking about the power of prayer and whether it really works. It’s about 2:30pm and I’ve heard no news reports yet… Does that mean it’s all pointless? Well, no. This is just practical way of putting my trust in God. God could move mountains if he wanted to. Heck, apparently so can I too if I had faith only the size of mustard seed. So what is stopping me? Well, myself I guess. So often I look at a big problem and think ”Well there is nothing I can do about that” and so I let my limited, little self be just that: limited. Let’s take world hunger for example. What can I do that would genuinely make a difference to something that seems to have existed forever and feels like it will exist forever?
Pray and trust
Trust in God and his power and infinite goodness, yes. But God always asks us to do our bit too – even if all we have to offer are two fishes and five loaves. God magnifies, to proportions beyond our imaginations, but I need to do my bit too.
So world hunger may still exist tomorrow. But I do believe that God and I can move mountains when I put my mind to it. And, what’s more, I know people across the globe are praying for this too. And all of us together create a force to be reckoned with. Think of the effect Pope Francis has had from being Pontiff for ten months; think of the effect I will have if I gave a sandwich to every homeless person I saw on the way home. The possibilities are as limited as I am, and the joy of Advent is realising how unlimited we can be when we give our ‘Yes’ to God.