Today is the first Sunday of Advent. For anyone who did not grow up in a Church going household that might not mean much. For anyone who did, it still might not mean much, unless you've really spent any significant amount of time thinking about what it means. Because these weeks, and what they mean, go beyond belief in any particular religious doctrines or gods. These four weeks of Advent are about contemplation, a re-examination of life, a rebirth of hope and love and joy amidst the darkness and bleakness of winter. Now, I did grow up in a church going household, but I never really examined Advent until after I had become unenraptured with the dogmas of organized religion. That is, I have, for the most part, given up organized faith, as led by those who insist on practices and principles that disregard and discriminate against large portions of the population and that allow world leaders to perform horrible abominations in the name of faith. However, whether or not I choose to follow the ways of a particular Church, I find that I am a believer in a higher power, and that I choose to see that higher power as a symobiosis of a creator, a humanity, and a spirit.
The first week of advent is about Hope. For Christians this is expressed in the hope for the redemption represented by the character of Jesus, who is the word of hope made flesh. So, for me, this represents a hope of the divine made human and the human made divine. It is hope, in the midst of this depressing season of cold and darkness, that light and life will come again, that all of our many faults can be healed, that we have the power and ability to become more and better than we are.
I love the story of Mary and of Joseph, two individuals given a terrible task in the hope of bettering their world for all people. I love the passion and the sacrifice, the love and hope of the story of Mary. A young girl, not yet married, and pregnant, in a time when a girl would be stoned to death for such a thing. And she rejoices in it. She willingly sacrifices herself so that her people can have a Messiah that most of them will not recognize. She gives her body and perhaps her life (she does not know that she will not be killed for her apparent sins) so that a baby can be born who can be a symbol of hope for a population living with very little hope. And Joseph, who willingly takes on the wrath and disgust of his neighbors to claim the child and to protect Mary. He too sacrifices himself for the great hope of redemption in their awful world of poverty under the tyranny of the Roman Empire. The story of these two humans and their great undertaking is amazing, and I love it, and I love to think of it throughout these four weeks of Advent.