This year, I picked up a book called "We Light the Candles: Devotions Related to the Family Use of the Advent Wreath". While it turned out to be a bit too Christian for my tastes, and I passed it on to my devoted Catholic mother, I got to thinking about a few things I read in it, and, as I have a tendency to do, started trying to figure out how to translate Advent and its messages to non-Christian, non-theist, or Humanist folks (esp. Unitarian Universalists that are the above things, as I am).
Often times the message of Christmas at a UU church is how blessed the birth of each child is. I'd like to take this a step further and adapt some liberation theology (as best I know it, which isn't well at all). Advent means coming, and Christians wait for the coming of their Messiah, their Christ. I think we can celebrate a similar waiting for a birth. We've had many prophetic women and men who have fought for justice. But we still wait for that justice to happen; we still fight the good fight. We've had many great leaders in the past. Maybe someday we'll have another great leader who will help us establish justice for all… a wise and charismatic leader. So we can wait for that birth… or perhaps those births, if instead of a singular leader, it's a group or movement. We can work hard, fight for freedom and justice, and hope and pray for the coming of those who will lead us even further, who will teach us how to not just live well but create a world where everyone can live well. Hope and pray that the coming generations are even more enlightened than we are. (And, of course, we can teach our children well so that they will surpass us.)
So we, too, are waiting for the coming of a wonderful blessed birth… we just don't know who it will be, or what they will achieve. They're probably not going to be the Son of God, but they may well be a Savior of the World.
The book mentioned that the devotions within will focus our attention on our relationship with God. We can focus our attentions on our relationships with others, our relationship with ourselves, and our relationship to our personal spirituality, or, for those so inclined, our relationship to our ethics, to doing what is Right.
The book mentioned that there are many names for the 4 candles. It chooses to label them promise, light, love, and hope. These, I feel, don't need any translation. The promise of a better world, the light of knowledge and goodness, love (which stands alone), and the hope for a better future.
So this year, I'll probably still sing O Come Emmanuel (because I find the song to be beautiful and haunting). And I'll use this season to prepare myself for the coming of not a Savior, but perhaps a Liberator. I'll work on making good relationships with those in my life and I'll work on bettering myself ethically & personally so I'll be in a place, emotionally & ethically/spiritually where I can do the Blessed Work of Establishing Justice.
The thing is, since we're not looking for a single Savior, since we're not looking for the coming of God, we may never know who Our Messiah is. They may never come. They may have already been born. And, as it may well be multiple people working together, some may have already died, while others may not yet be physically conceived (while they are, indeed, conceived in our hearts), and still yet others may be in our wombs currently while they are in our hearts. They may be wandering around already doing nothing of the sort. They may be me, they may be you. And since we may never know, perhaps we have to act as if they're already here. Or perhaps we need to act as if they'll never come, and step up and be our own Liberators. But we can step back, reflect, better ourselves and also create a space for centering & peace in the crazy holiday season. It can give us a religious festival for those who don't celebrate the Christian solemnity of Christmas but would like some kind of religious or spiritual practice or celebration to counterbalance the fun but often times frenzied & stressful secular celebration.
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