“Make ready for the Christ whose smile like lightening sets free the song of everlasting glory that now sleeps in your paper flesh like dynamite.”
These simple but explosive words of monk and mystic Thomas Merton convey the spiritual meaning of Advent, the four week period before Christmas when Christians are encouraged to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. As significant as his birth was/is for a troubled world, there is another and equally important understanding of Advent that has to do with the coming of Christ in and through us.
“Christ” is a Greek word that means anointed, or anointed one. This designation refers to a person who is called to perform a sacred charge, one chosen for a spiritual endeavor. It is certainly an appropriate term in reference to Jesus, for his mission was to bring healing and hope, mercy and compassion, peace and justice, to Jews and gentiles alike, by embodying and proclaiming the unconditional love of Yahweh.
But ‘Christ’ is also a word that applies to all of us no matter what our religious affiliation – if any. There is a “song of everlasting glory” longing to be sung through us, a dormant spiritual presence to which we are called to give birth. Call it ‘soul,’ call it ‘true self,’ call it ‘psyche,’ there is within each of us a sacred self waiting to emerge so that our darkened world might become a better, brighter place. For some this involves extraordinary efforts to bring about systemic change, for most of us it means the everyday committing of random acts of kindness.
When viewed in this manner, both Advent and Christmas become more real, more vital, more immediate. We are not talking about preparing for something that happened in a far away place over 2000 years ago, but for a reality that needs to happen HERE and NOW if we are to experience a sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment for ourselves, and healing for our broken world.