It is Advent. I can scarcely believe the speed with which this year has flown past. Neither can I quite believe – despite all the dimensions of our world which are still positive, creative and hopeful – the quantum leap which our troubled planet seems to have taken this year: into a frightening level of population displacement with its attendant human misery, and of mindless violence for the continuation of which, it appears, we have to steel ourselves for the foreseeable future until our political lords and masters can come up with some kind of solution. As I write, that solution is not at all obvious.
What can we do about this at an individual level, to help our feelings of pain for the suffering of our fellow human beings, and to make us feel less helpless? At a practical, outgoing level, we can send donations of food, clothing, money to help ease the plight of those millions of refugees displaced by violent upheaval.
Advent, however, invites us to pause, be still, go within…The great psychologist and mystic Carl Jung observed that if there is something wrong with the world, then there is something wrong with us. We can start the process of possible change for the better by looking unflinchingly into our own hearts – and amending our own behaviour. Writer Edward Hays puts this challenge beautifully:
“Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare… Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide…
“Daily we can make an Advent examination. Are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts.
An Advent Examination
Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 196
Readers, do you have a favourite Advent reflection, meditation or poem which has inspired and comforted you? If so, do share it in a comment.
400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015
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