Advent Is Good Time To Prepare In Such A Way That We Avoid Tension In Our Families
Advent means waiting. How many of us are good at that? We live in a society where we expect everything to be instantaneous (because so many things are).
In an instant we can send mail around the world or buy a Christmas gift or call someone no matter where they are (as long as they are in range of a cell tower).
We are in the Microwave Age but it's important that our patience is not equally short -- especially in responding to confrontation. Often, when faced with a sudden problem or insult, we're inclined to react instantly. When we do, we make a big mistake.
Look at where we are in today's world! There was the recent account of a man who was impatient even over the two minutes it took for his microwave to heat up a cup of coffee.
Yet in his days as a youth in Europe he had to spend up to half an hour gathering wood, then another half an hour or so bringing back a bucket of water to make coffee for the day. Two minutes versus an hour!
We've come a long way -- or have we?
This impatience translates to our personal lives: When faced with an issue, we often react in a way we regret. Usually, it's because we acted quickly. We "microwave" a response. How many times has that happened to you? How many times have you reacted or over-reacted, only to regret it later?
What we first need to do is learn to step back. This is an excellent training: learn to make your first reaction (to the unexpected) a stepping back instead of a response (unless of course it requires an emergency reaction).
You'll find this especially useful during family gatherings. You know how someone may say something contentious, and you also know how the sting remains when you respond instantly and negatively -- when you repay contention with contention.
It can spoil an entire holiday season, and so it is important to step back. How many times have you been in a problem that someone caused, that seemed so biting at the moment, and that tempts you to anger, even to cutting off your relationship with a person, but then seems minor when the heat of that moment passes?
If we are too prone to anger, it is a good time to confess it and work every day all day at purging that streak of anger. Hostility is the devil's energy. Is this worth destroying a friendship or other relationship -- a fit of anger? Only the devil believes so!
Once we learn to do that, we have to "program" ourselves to "pray about" everything that crops up. We never have peace with a decision that is out of accordance with the way Christ wants us to advance. And we know His way best by stepping back and praying. Prayer and fasting set a tone of discipline that affects the way we handle everything (and the way we control our thoughts).
When we do that, the correct response becomes apparent through a blanket of fog. A "cloud" lifts.
The Christian faith, it seems, evokes a sense of expectation -- and we tend to carry it to an extreme in a culture where we are used to getting everything quickly.
There is this constant tension between what God already has done for us and what we further expect.
Biblical history is like a mysterious rhythm of promise and fulfillment, an astute priest points out.
"Hence, we can see all those end-of-the-world images in Advent's readings -- destruction before rebuilding, devastation before renewal," he said. "Something is ending. Something is about to be born. The future is still open to us.
"For all its basic goodness, the world continues to be marked by pain and evil. But with our God Who comes, we can conquer all evil. Advent proclaims that God's future is our future" -- and that our patience can be His.
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