If we were honest, most of us in Western culture live a lot of our lives in the future. Each of us has pressing concerns or approaching events that inspire or provoke us to worry, assess, and prepare for what might be coming.
This work can a prudential act, but it can also rob us of the grace that’s here in the present moment. If we always live in the future, how can we appreciate the lives we’re living right here and right now?
This is one of the several questions raised by the season of Advent. With the peace and joy of Christmas in the air, Advent runs the risk of being overlooked or forgotten. But the season has some pressing lessons for believers and for all people of good will. Some of these lessons include: The importance of living in the present moment, dwelling in hope, and of regularly starting our lives anew in God’s goodness.
Living in Western culture, oftentimes marked by a rapid pace, unforgiving spirit, and raw ambition, we all could benefit from these essential tutorials about what it means to be human. These lessons can serve as welcomed candles in the darkness, giving us a guiding light and a secure direction in the course of the night.
And so, Pope Francis says of Advent: “For the great human family it is necessary to renew always the common horizon toward which we are journeying. The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes a good journey.”
One of Advent’s pressing lessons, therefore, is precisely this journey of hope. The idea of a journey indicates a path for today and an eventual destination. These realities show us that time is not eternal and that each of us must determine for what, or for whom, we will live.
Each of us is called to discern and affirm what we believe right now and allow these convictions to shape our journey, determine our focus, and mold our lives. This work can only be done today. It’s lost in yesterday and only presumed in tomorrow. Now is the time. And this work is the heart of Advent.
Advent, then, is a summons to Christian believers to live in the “today” of their lives. To do what they are doing and to do it well. Not in the past or in the future but today. Advent is an invitation to reread and relive the Lord’s Nativity and the other great events of salvation history in their own lives. It challenges each of us to open ourselves to the spiritual workings of God on our own life’s journey and to hope in his presence and goodness in our lives.
Again, Pope Francis explains: “Let us rediscover the beauty of being together along the way… all together on the paths of time.”
And so, Advent offers the believer the anticipation of the past and the hope of the future while strongly emphasizing the importance of each person living the truths of faith right here and right now.
The joy of Christmas would be empty without the heartfelt work of the believer and the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity would be hollow without the richness of the biblical narrative. Advent stresses the significance of both.
This lived spiritual experience compels conversion within us since we cannot truly encounter sacred events and not be changed. In grasping God’s love and mercy, his activity among us, and his desire to be with us along our journey, our hearts are melted and moved. Our anxieties are lessened, our openness to healing is broadened, and our impulse for moral goodness and union with God is enkindled and revitalized. And so, we seek a new beginning.
Pope Francis summarizes this transformation: “The journey is never finished. Just as in each of our own lives, there is always a need to restart, to rise again, to recover a sense of the goal of one’s own existence.”
These are Advent lessons offered to us all. If accepted, they can guide us along the path of spiritual growth and lead us to living and appreciating an abundant life lived in the here and in the now.