On the Brink of Transformation

Advent Reflection, Sunday, December 3, 2017

By: Kitty Williams

Like a slow motion prayer wheel, the year spins through the seasons. Winter, spring, summer, fall, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost, interspersed with long stretches of what the Church calls “ordinary time.” And then it starts all over again, at the beginning: Advent, the Church’s New Year.

But Advent doesn’t appear in ads, shop displays or Facebook “suggested sites.” Instead, we get the anxiety-inducing reminders of the rapidly decreasing number of shopping days left until Christmas.

Stop. Breathe. Listen for a moment. Quietly, persistently, Advent calls us to step away from the frenzy and to pay attention. On the rolling prayer wheel of the liturgical year, Advent readies us for something amazing, exciting, and terrifying: the birth of Jesus at Christmas. And each time – as if for the first time – we will be transformed.

Advent also happens in each of our lives. When fundamental change is imminent – a move, a marriage, a new job, retirement – Advent challenges us to stop, breathe, listen and prepare ourselves to live in the world transformed by that change.

Advent 2017 finds me on the brink of such a transformation. In a few months, after a long stretch of ordinary time, I will brush off long unused skills and start to set my own goals rather than those of an employer. I haven’t felt as excited since I can remember. Or as scared.

The choices are rich and varied. I’m sketching out mind-maps, listing places to tour or volunteer, checking out pottery workshops, pinning on Pinterest, and interviewing well-traveled friends. I’m as giddy as a teenager planning her gap year! My emotions match those I imagine Mary must have felt as her time drew near: fear and joy combined in equal measure.

In “The Summer Day,” poet Mary Oliver asks:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

Not “what have you done?” with your life, but “what is it you plan to do?”

And Advent asks us a similar question. “What is it you plan to do in the world about to be transformed by the birth of this Baby?” Not “what have you done?” But “what will you do?”

Can I – can we – stay open to all the possibilities, positive and negative? Can we say, with Mary, “Let it be unto me according to your word?”