Many of you know that I wrote a book this past year, called Childish Thinking, in which I try to get us to grow in our understanding of the Bible. So today on the first Sunday of Advent, I'd like us to look at the Season of Advent from a higher perspective...
As children growing up in the church, most of us were taught that Advent was a time for us to prepare for the birth of the baby Jesus. But didn't that already happen? More than 2,000 years ago? Well, our friend Father Richard Rohr, the best selling writer, says that Advent is not a time of waiting for the baby Jesus to arrive, but rather is about preparing ourselves for the birth of the Christ. He writes, "Advent is not about a sentimental waiting for the baby Jesus. Advent is a time for us to focus our expectations and anticipation on the Cosmic Christ."
I've explained to you before that the Cosmic Christ existed at the beginning of all time, the firstborn of all creation. Before anything else existed, there was the Christ, 15 billion years ago. In the beginning was the Word, Scripture says. And God said, "Let there be light." And 2,000 years ago, that Word, that Light became flesh.
A human baby, Jesus of Nazareth, became one with the One -- capital, O. He became one with the cosmos, one with the Light, one with all that is. And he said that we could do it too. And he came to show us the way, the way of awakening to our oneness with the Light, and with the power of the cosmos.
That's what we're doing this Advent season. That's what we're preparing ourselves for. We're awaiting with great hope and expectation for the Light and the life of the Christ, to be born again in us. We're not merely preparing a birthday party for a human baby who was born more than 2,000 years ago. We're preparing for the Son of Man, to be born again in us.
In today's Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent, we see a grown Jesus, 30 years old, who is instructing his disciples to prepare themselves for the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man, Jesus tells them, is coming at an unexpected hour. So keep awake, get ready, prepare yourselves.
Now I know this is confusing, but the Son of Man, isn't Jesus. Think about it. Why would Jesus tell his apostles to prepare themselves for the coming of the Son of Man, if he was already there, standing right there in front of them? That wouldn't make any sense. The Son of Man, the only begotten Son that Jesus is referring to, is not himself, but the Christ, the cosmic Christ.
Jesus wanted his disciples to prepare themselves, not for his coming, for he was already there, but for the coming of the Christ, for the awakening of the Light, within themselves.
Now, growing up in the Christian church, most of us were taught that Jesus was the only begotten Son. So we thought that meant he was the only one, the only Light. But he came to tell us that we too, are beloved sons and daughters of God, and that we too, are the Light of the world. Meister Eckhart, the 13th century Christian mystic said, "Everyone is the only begotten son." He said, "God is forever begetting the only begotten." And the 20th century Christian mystic Thomas Merton put it this way. He said, "Events and images in Scripture symbolize inner experiences. Christmas is, therefore, an important occasion, not just in the life of Jesus, but in our own personal history. Through it, God awakens us to the divine life within ourselves."
This season of Advent is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the awakening of this divine life within ourselves. It's a time for us to participate in the process of incarnation. I know that's a difficult concept for many of us to grasp, because we have grown up in churches hearing that Jesus was the only begotten Son, and that we lacked the capacity to achieve what he achieved. But the truth of the matter is that Jesus said, "Everything that I have done, you can do." And then he added, "These things, and greater."
That's what Advent is all about. We're making way for the Way of the Christ to be born in us. We're awaiting the awakening within ourselves. Christmas, therefore is not just about the birth of a baby, born 2,000 years ago, Christmas is about the birth of the Christ, born 15 billion years ago. That's why we say "Keep Christ in Christmas," not "Keep Jesus in Christmas." Because it's not just about the baby. It's about us. It's not just about Mary becoming pregnant with the Light. It's about our becoming pregnant with the Light.
And that's why we light candles this time of year, to remind ourselves of this Light that is with us and within us. The light of the first advent candle symbolizes hope. We're awaiting the birth of this Light, not with great trepidation, but with great hope and expectation.
I know that it's difficult for us to stay hopeful about the coming of the Light during this time of great darkness in our world, isn't it? But Scripture reminds us that the people in darkness have seen a great light and that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
So my friends, do not be dismayed during this dark time in which we are living. The Light is on its way and that Light is born in us. This Advent season, let every heart prepare Him room.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
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