Advent: Awaiting Something for Our Weakness
He became man who was God, by receiving what He was not, not by losing what He was: so God became man. There you have something for your weakness, something for your perfection. Let Christ raise you by that which is man, lead you by that which is God-man, and guide you through to that which is God. (Saint Augustine,
O ye beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
(Edmund Hamilton Sears,
from "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear," 1849)
The skeptics among us will note that, archaeologically speaking, Christ most probably was born in May—not in December, during the Yuletide Season (which, when He was born, was most emphatically not the Yuletide Season).
But such quibbling about the mere "facts" of the situation miss the point. So why does the Church choose to celebrate the Incarnation at a time of the year that does not correspond to the facts of Christ's birth? We celebrate Christmas and the Incarnation at the Winter Solstice precisely because of what the Incarnation is: the blazing of God's light, the shining of His Presence in time that sparks the blaze of eternity through all times.
Incarnation is how God ends our darkness:
In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. In him was life: and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5, RHE)
The Church witnesses to the world the Good News of the Birth of Christ by celebrating the Incarnation at the time of year in which the days are the shortest and the nights the longest, days which set the pagan imagination trembling with the thought that the Sun would not return and endless night would reign.
Indeed, our capacity to sin and stumble sometimes makes us think that we have no remedy, that we will always be darkened, that our shadows will snuff out our candled souls.
Christ comes on the coldest, longest, darkest night of the soul to shed light on our birthright: as He is the Light shone forth in the darkness that the darkness comprehends not, so we are little Christs, spoken by God as shining words against the darkness, and en masse, as Christ's resurrected Body, the Church, we shine so brightly that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against our assault.
Take heart this Advent! Christmas is no mistake, nor superstition, nor one "holiday" among others. It is the Day of Our Holiness, the Day that God shines forth in the darkness to reveal to us beneath life's crushing load, who toil along the climbing way, that we are made by Him, redeemed by Him, and resurrected by Him to be His light against the darkness.
We do not wait for a mere holiday sale. We do not wait merely for a Christmas morning or another party or a few days off. We await the full play of the Light of God throughout the mystery of history. We await our fulfillment in Him. We rejoice in this stillness, this waiting, this hope.
May you have a blessed Advent.