Sunday, November 28, 2010
This work of art is by an Estonian artist named Ain Vares. It's called "Angel Proclaims the Good News" -- yet another rendition of that night when shepherds were told by an angel of the birth of the promised Redeemer.
That the birth took place in the simplest of circumstances -- no fanfare, no elegant or even comfortable accommodations, probably not even a pillow for the baby or the mother -- is noteworthy. Save for some people who were aware of and kept the prophecies at heart, the birth passed unnoticed. Needless to say, there was no "advent season" back then to remind people that the arrival of the awaited Redeemer was close at hand.
Advent is essentially the time of preparation for Christmas Day. What kind of preparation? Well, much like what happens when, say, you've decided on an out-of-town trip and it's about a month before departure time ... or you're in the thick of preparations for a wedding ... or maybe you and your friends are looking forward to a party or some other kind of get-together. It's about getting ready for whatever's needed for the trip, the wedding, the party. Most importantly, it's the anticipation that comes with it as the date of the event approaches; also, the hope that things will turn out great.
Advent, then, is the time for getting ready for a meaningful celebration of the day when a most important figure was born, the emphasis being on interior preparation. Let's put it this way: when you know that an important guest is arriving at your house, don't you do a bit of dusting, get rid of clutter, fluff up throw pillows and probably make a mental note of what's in your refrigerator that you can offer? Spending the four weeks of Advent is somewhat like that -- "cleaning house" and decorating a little to be able not only to receive the Guest well, but to appreciate his coming.
Advent could also be the time to know more about the Guest whose arrival is of particular significance. Knowing and understanding what makes him a not-so-ordinary figure is, I think, the only thing that would enable us to make meaningful preparations for his arrival -- as well as to experience the deep joy that accompanies the season.