Where God reveals Himself to us in a Christmas under oppression
GLASGOW, Scotland, December 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — As far as I can tell, out of all the advents I have lived through, the advent of 2020 has been possibly one of the most...adventy.
What I mean is, the manner in which I have entered into and, indeed, experienced this advent has been among the most authentic in my life, and much of that is down to 2020 itself (and God’s good grace, naturally).
This year has brought many unexpected surprises: from the more general and depressing, like COVID and travel restrictions, to the joyful announcement of a new nephew joining our family, it has been a mixed bag. The unexpected has sort of become the expected this year.
In a peculiar twist, the converse is also true, with the expected having become unexpected. Normally, Christmas is a time that we anticipate quite far in advance (perhaps too far in advance for our own sanity at times). It is an occasion that we plan for meticulously, booking travel arrangements, ordering copious amounts of food and drink, and eventually decking our halls.
But for many months now, we have been continuously told by our governing powers that “Christmas is canceled this year” as they browbeat us into accepting that our ancient festivities simply will not be, or at least will not be the same. But perhaps this doesn’t have to be an altogether bad thing. Not that it isn’t bad in that some people will lock themselves away in fear and trepidation, but, for some, it might be a chance to reclaim a time of silent expectation.
With shops and eateries closed, we have the unusual opportunity for respite from the mad rush of Christmas shopping, shelter from the temptations of consumerist decadences, silence from the distractions of a world that doesn’t want to know the true meaning of Christ and His coming at Christmas. These are the ingredients for an advent of profound interior preparation, a time spent in quiet, maybe even penitential, expectancy.
And is it not this quiet expectancy that is precisely what advent is oriented toward? Without the usual distractions, we are free to contemplate, in the void normally filled by hustle and bustle, the coming of the Christ Child. While we are supposed to make the effort to do quiet, interior preparation for Christmas during advent anyway, it rarely happens with great success, at least, regrettably, for me.
This advent I (and everyone else) have been forced in a very material way to wait — to wait for the day I might see certain family members again; to wait for the day I might be able to freely enter a shop or café without being hassled for not wearing a mask; to wait for my local bishop to lift the cumbersome impositions unduly placed on the liturgies. Yes, some of these things are less pressing than others, but they are real, and they make material the kind of spiritual expectancy that advent is all about: waiting to greet the King of Kings.
God brings all sorts of good out of evil; He permits evil only that a greater good might arise from it, Augustine says. The evil that has been allowed to fill our lives of late — the separation from loved ones, and the oppression of state governments and imprudent bishops, have all been permitted to happen within the eternal vision of the Thrice-Holy God. This does not mean that what has happened is good — it is not — but it can make us good, should we allow God to show us how.
Just as God brought the world out of the darkness of sin after the birth of His Son, so too will the darkness of this advent, and indeed this year, be brought to the glory of a new birth, beyond our expectations.