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Advent Reflection for Week 4: The night is as clear as the day

By Sister Joan Marie Stelman, OSB, senior vice president, mission integration


…even darkness is not dark for you,

and the night is as clear as the day….Psalm 139:12


Advent is a time of waiting and a time of darkness. The readings for Advent are filled with a sense of expectation: hope for a time of peace, a time of healing, a time of light, the coming of the Savior. Yet as important as it is to “keep our eyes on the prize,” we must not let our focus on the longed-for light blind us to the riches that surround us in the darkness.

We tend to be filled with impatience, wishing away not only the darkness of the season but the darkness and the drudgery of our everyday lives. If we live only looking to the future, we are bound to be disappointed. How often do we feel “let down” when Christmas finally comes – and is gone in the blink of an eye? We are like a carload of children pestering God – “Are we there yet?” – who are then disappointed and cranky upon reaching their destination.

The chosen people experienced a similar “letdown” when they realized that their Messiah was not a glorious hero, but a working man from a humble background. Not only did he fail to solve all their problems – poverty, injustice, oppression, – Jesus couldn’t even save himself. It’s easy at this distance to criticize and scoff at the Israelites, but aren’t we often just as intolerant when our problems aren’t resolved according to our own individual visions of perfection. In a reversal of the old saying, it seems we can’t see the trees for the forest.

If we only look at the mountain of problems facing our world, it is easy to be tempted to throw up our hands in despair or to allow ourselves to be consumed by anger. Why is it sometimes easier to throw our energy into worrying about huge problems than to actually do something to help those around us each day? Perhaps partly it’s a question of glamour. It is certainly more glamorous to find a cure for COVID than it is to visit a sick neighbor or to fight for world peace rather than to show tolerance to an irritating family member. It is very seductive to picture ourselves as saviors of the world – or prophets at the very least.

I am not advocating that we should ignore world problems or stop recycling, but I am suggesting that we also need to take the time to look around us, for all our life is “Advent” until we are truly united with our Lord. Our call to live in loving community should be more than responsibility; it should be our treasure. If we take time to look, we will see a myriad of opportunities – glittering in what seems to be darkness – to show the love of Christ to those around us.