The last eight weeks have been no picnic. We’ve listened to a number of uncomfortable lessons and stories told by Jesus in the gospel readings and have heard unsettling warnings about the consequences for not:
· Producing good fruit;
· Being prepared;
· Repaying to God what belongs to him;
· Loving authentically;
· Living with integrity;
· Performing good works;
· Investing our talents in the kingdom of God; or
· Caring for those who suffer.
Through not an inconsiderable amount of discomfort and distress in reading these passages, we’ve been pressed by Jesus to grow deeper in following him by moving from selfish consumerism to selfless discipleship. We’ve been urged to take small steps in the right direction by serving in ministry, tithing and giving, engaging in small groups, practicing prayer, and sharing our faith. The consistent message during this series has been that we need to “pray as we live and live as we pray.”
In this Advent season, the tables now seem to turn. We encounter readings that are less uncomfortable and that actually bring us hope and comfort in our watchful waiting for the Lord to come into our world. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah, for instance, begs for God to “rend the heavens and come down” (63:19). It is hopeful because the prophet believes with all his heart that God will come down and clean up the mess made by sinful humanity.
Because God has been faithful, loving, and good to Israel in the past, Isaiah is fully confident that the Lord will show compassion and forgive. As the psalm today says, God will “come to save us” and take care of his people. Even the gospel reading, with its warning to “be watchful” and “alert,” ultimately is comforting because it urges us to slow down, see more clearly, and trust in the Lord to come.
As a matter of fact, Advent is a time to slow down and become fully awake. Through all the hype of the Christmas shopping season, there is one millennial trend from which Catholics can learn. It’s called hygge (pronounced hue-guh). The word is Danish in origin and roughly translates to coziness, comfort, or reassurance. As one description puts it, hygge is a sense of “togetherness and inner warmth, a world lit by candles and snuggled under blankets” (www.qz.com, “Winter Joy”). This Scandinavian “art of creating intimacy” that has led to the highest recorded levels of happiness in the world involves a certain kind of conscious awareness, a slowness, and the ability to recognize and enjoy the present with others.
What Advent calls for is a certain sort of spiritual hygge. It’s a kind of collective confidence in God’s consolation, and a willingness to light a candle together in order to scatter the darkness, because we are confident that God will comfort his people. Over the next few weeks, we’ll learn the art of spiritual hygge by preparing our homes for Christ, trusting in one greater than ourselves, and creating a warm place for others. From all of us at Saint Brendan Church, we wish you a hygge Advent and Christmas season.