Advent is all about hope and anticipation of “the coming.” In its finest form, it looks beyond consumerism—not focused on “the coming” of the new iPad Mini, or your anticipation of unwrapping your new underpants (don’t lie—you know you get them every year!). At the heart of “the coming” should be fervor about life, not merchandise. God came to the earth in the person of Jesus—living in our world to show the way. And remember, as a church, we celebrate that gift of life with the end in mind—we already know what Jesus’ life offers us as believers. Jesus will die to bring us new life. As a result, there is a dichotomy in our celebration of life as we celebrate the new life of Christ—God incarnate—while at the same time remember the total self donation that Jesus exemplifies in giving up His life so that we might have life. What if we worshiped in that way?
In fact, I would posit that Advent starts with worship. Too often, nevertheless, this sacred action is taken for granted or overlooked. We get consumed by consuming—so much so that instead of being fully present at our worship service, we are thinking, “Did I get him a sweater or a polo last year?” Just a guess on my part, but I think this probably prohibits us from being able to participate fully in the communal action of worship. And if we are all individually slacking in our attention to worship, our collective community worship will seriously suffer as well.
When a community is able to assemble and present themselves fully at a service, there is no doubt that the Spirit comes to life. For me, I need to look no further than the 10pm mass as we sing the Our Father as a prime example of this. You might have heard the colloquial phrase, “Singing is praying twice.” Of course, if you know me, you know I love music and that this phrase resonates very deeply with me. So as we sing this prayer together at the 10pm mass, something amazing happens for me. I feel like the prayer rises up from the depths of my heart and calls me to not only say the words, but feel them—take them from my own being and offer them to God, fully. In that moment, I feel a surrender of my disordered attachments: pride, selfishness, individualism—they all start to fade away and I let myself be fully present (in my most authentic form) to God.
When we worship in this way, our most authentic prayers are revealed to God in a kind of extemporaneous way. We need not offer our prayers in word; we offer them by being vulnerable, exposing our authentic self and allowing God to receive the prayers of our hearts. This Advent, I challenge you to present yourself during worship in this way so you can allow your deepest desires to be heard by God. I also invite you to free up space to listen to God’s response. You just might find that the invitation is to love like Jesus: to make your own response of love in a way that brings life to the world.
Tim Dunn is the Assistant Director of Faith & Ministry at the CFJ. Tim coordinates the 10 PM Student Mass, where each week he is given the opportunity to witness the student community grow and nurture one another.