People need Advent hope because the world is a grim and beautiful place. I know that sounds ridiculous (and maybe a little melodramatic), but it’s true. One of the great ironies of life is that the world we live in is filled with some of the most wonderful and painful things you can imagine.
Advent should be a time of joyful anticipation. But while the rest of us are baking cookies and ticking items off Amazon wish lists, far too many people find themselves anything but joyful. Instead of looking forward to the arrival of the Christ-child, they find themselves wondering:
- Where they’ll find their next meal
- Why the world seems to be against them
- Whether their lives will ever return to some semblance of normal
From refugees in search of a place to call home to individuals stitching together three jobs to make ends meet, they’re searching for a reason to believe that tomorrow will be better than today.
People of faith are called to stand in solidarity with the hurting and the broken, the poor and the oppressed. We not only need Advent hope ourselves — we’re called to be the midwives who help bring Advent hope into the world.
Merton’s “uninvited Christ”
Maybe you’ve noticed that we celebrate a sanitized version of Jesus during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Somehow we find a way to reduce the muck and mire of the manger to smiling figurines and a cherubic child wrapped in impossibly white linens.
But beneath our whitewashed nativity, there is a larger truth that desperately wants to be told. It’s a truth I was reminded of recently, when a friend shared a quote from Thomas Merton:
Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is no room for Him at all, Christ has come uninvited.
But because He cannot be at home in it, because He is out of place in it, and yet He must be in it, His place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated.
With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst.
— Thomas Merton, Raids on the Unspeakable
During Advent, we wait for the Christ who came into the world for all of us. But if we’re not careful, we lose sight of the fact that Immanuel — God with us — came into the world as an outcast to be present in a special way to those who have been rejected and forgotten. To those for whom there is no room.
So, as we move through Advent, count your blessings and celebrate the joys of the season. But in your thoughts and actions, your words and opinions, bring Advent hope into the world by standing in solidarity with Christ and the people for whom there is no room.