A time of anticipation – and questioning
By Michael M. Barrick
Note: I acknowledge that other faith traditions have sacred observances now and throughout the year. I make no claims to an exclusive truth. Rather, I simply follow the advice of Mark Twain and write what I know about. So, having been raised by devoted Catholic parents, it is only natural that at this time of year, I ponder Advent.
LENOIR, N.C. – As I gaze out the window above my desk listening to Christmas music and watch the ground silently and magically turn white from a predicted 2 – 4 inch snowfall, I am naturally nostalgic.
My fundamental belief is that Advent is about love – nothing more, nothing less.
Yet, as I generally do every December, I am struggling to hold onto what I believed as a child when the snows began to fall in the West Virginia hills. It is a time of anticipation – and questioning.
Naturally, as a child, my anticipation had more to do with the football or bicycle I hoped I was going to get on Christmas morning. Now, in my seventh decade on the planet, I find the season to be a time of questioning.
My fundamental belief is that Advent is about love – nothing more, nothing less. It has taken my whole life (well, not yet is hasn’t), to figure out that Jesus simply calls us to love and expressly forbids us from judging others. Amy Grant sings of it in “Emmanuel, God With Us.” The claim of Christmas is a claim of Incarnation, a claim many simply find implausible.
Even if you do believe it, living it is a whole different matter. Others often confuse me for Scrooge in December. That’s not true; I’m always a curmudgeon. The difference in December is that I find it difficult to not get angry since most Christians don’t seem to make much effort to examine and live the implications of the Incarnation.
So, I just get particularly grouchy in December. A lifelong friend, though, has helped me look at Advent differently this year. The question I ponder every December is eloquently and expertly addressed by the late Dr. Howard Thurman, a theologian I learned about from my friend, who sent me Dr. Thurman’s book, “Jesus and the Disinherited,” published in 1949.
Dr. Thurman gets immediately to the point on page 1. “Too often the price exacted by society for security and respectability is that the Christian movement in its formal expression must be on the side of the strong against the weak.” Forcing us to study the human Jesus in first century Palestine, Dr. Thurman adds, “The masses of men live with their backs constantly against the wall. They are the poor, the disinherited, the dispossessed. What does our religion say to them?”(Italics added).
Dr. Thurman is not alone in asking that question. Several musicians cause me to consider the message and meaning of Advent. Among them are:
- “Grown Up Christmas List” by Amy Grant
- “Summer Sun or Winter Skies” by David Haas
- “Mary Did Your Know?” by Kathy Mattea
Each, like Dr. Thurman, gives us much to contemplate this month – and always.
© Michael. M. Barrick, 2017.