First Sunday of Advent

“Encourage the faint-hearted, help the weak, be patient with all of them. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – 15, 23

Practicing Faith

Again it comes around. We know what to do. We answer the call to sing the familiar songs, to pull out the lights and decorations, to watch the same movies and TV specials, and, of course, to shop. Does this mean that we have fallen into a holiday rut? Are we automatons going through the motions of Christmas preparations? Maybe.

But every time we go around the cycle of the holiday season, we have the opportunity to practice faith, to renew our belief that the world can be redeemed from where we are, to where we might be.

We all know and respect a medical practice, or a law practice, or a practice of clinical psychology. But the practice of faith is a bit more elusive, quite possibly because we’ve removed it too far from practical application. But the faith of Christmas is not an inner experience, where we ponder things only in our hearts. It’s engaging a world where everything is a commodity, without giving into that cynicism. It’s believing that there is a way out of what seems to be perpetual war over resources and power, and obscene global inequalities without shrugging it off with, “Oh well.” It’s opening ourselves to the actual possibility that a just peace for all, and good will among all our human family is a reality waiting to happen.

How do we practice this faith? See the star on a Christmas tree, or sing a chorus of Halleluiah, or watch It’s a Wonderful Life and as you do the thousand familiar things of the season, keep yourself ready for the reality of Love coming into our messed up world: not as a sentimental or private experience, but as a tangible transformative power for us all. A million things will happen to deny that this Christmas faith points to something real. That’s exactly why it takes a lot of practice. Enjoy all the daily Advent reflections which follow. They are coming your way to help your faith practice. Happy Advent.

—Jeffrey McArn,
College Chaplain