Advent is a time of waiting, of looking to the future with hope. The English poet W. H. Auden wrote a long poem called “For the Time Being,” a narrative about the Advent and Christmas seasons. In the centre section, he describes what it is like to live in the period between the routine of everyday life and the excitement and joy of Christmas. We spend most of our lives, Auden says, in “the time being.”
Much of modern life has been shaped within a consumerism that proudly excludes a need for waiting. At this time of the year, children become focused on Christmas Day when they will be able to celebrate with family, fun, and of course, gifts. For adults, the instant gratification of instant credit has landed whole societies in great crisis. These experiences help create an environment that suggests instant gratification is the norm for all aspects of life, including things of faith.
The biblical stories in Advent suggest movement, and that urges us to be awake and attentive. Waiting may not be a passive task but a process in which we are actively engaged, as in pregnancy, when there is a lot going on that we cannot see during the waiting and preparation for birth. The scriptures are rich with imagery and invite tactile engagement with the message of God’s power to transform violence to peace.
Adults have differing understandings of what “peace” entails. The word “peace” can become superficial, especially when we see it written all over Christmas decorations and greetings cards. How can we bring more depth to our understanding of peace and help people connect with it personally? As we journey on God’s path of peace, what might we need to take with us on this Advent journey?