Advent Reflection Series: Why Does Advent Matter?

This week was the first session of the three-session Advent Reflection Series I’m offering at the University of St. Thomas School of Law this month.

Advent is a difficult time to do programming at the law school, since classes end this week and students go into study mode for exams. Still, I think it is important to mark this important period and so I offer something each Advent for those students, faculty and staff who can make the time.

The theme of this first session was Why Does Advent Matter? I opened the session with Henri Nouwn’s Advent Prayer, which appears below. I then asked the participants to introduce themselves and say a bit about their understanding of Advent; the sharing was extraodrinarily rich.

My talk focused on the meaning of Advent and an important aspect of the active waiting we do during this season: engaging in the process of internal transformation. I addressed three questions: Do we want to be transformed? Do we believe we can be transformed? What is the transformation God asks of us?

I think the first of those is a very important question because the transformation we are asked to make is a major one – a complete offering of ourselves – making ourselves an instrument of God’s love and mercy. And I think often the answer to the question of whether we are willing to effect such a major change is – if not no – then at least something less than 100% yes. We have a tendency to resist change because change creates discomfort. This is a fact that has been true of saints and sinners throughout history. Our willingness to be transformed is something worth spending some time reflecting on during Advent.

Here is Henri Nouwen’s Advent Prayer:

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for
Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

With apologies, the recorder was not functioning and so I have no podcast of that talk I gave. However, here is a copy of the handout I distributed; we used the first page for individual reflection during the session.

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