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Finding my bearings in an Advent filled with uncertainty

Sun, 05 Dec 2021 06:28:00

A Reflection for the Sunday of the Second Week of Advent

“And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value”

(Phil 1:4-6, 8-11).

Never has the season of Advent felt more necessary or more insufferable. Even as some aspects of life return to normal (whatever that means now), the ongoing pandemic has kept the world in a sort of stasis. There is much that remains unknown about the virus, about treatments, about variants—so much to worry about. And then there is still everything else—the usual non-pandemic details and events of everyday life—to worry about. I can’t quite see how this ends, yet I’m supposed to feel hopeful.

It might be obvious by now, but even in the pre-pandemic world, I was often anxious about wading through uncertainty. Add too many variables to a situation, and it leaves me feeling incapable of moving forward. How can I make decisions now about what is best for my family without knowing what the post-pandemic future will hold?

Today’s readings offer some help in their reminder that, though much remains uncertain, God’s love is a constant. The readings remind us that God leads his people always “in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” And I have to admit that is decent company.

Slowly, I am also realizing that although the exact circumstances might have changed, any life on earth will always be lived amid uncertainty. So we make the best decisions we can with the knowledge that we have, and we hope that God’s grace is enough to bring some fruit from our choices, even when we are not sure we believe in them ourselves. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is also a reminder to us today that in order to take steps toward the good, we must first root ourselves in what matters: We must center love and “discern what is of value.”

We have seen so much of the normalcy of our lives stripped away; we have been left with the hard reminder that family and relationship and community and service and love of God and neighbor have great worth. So we strive to create situations that allow that love to “increase ever more and more.” And I try to cling to the hope at the core of my faith, even as I worry about everything from variants to vaccine rates, from Christmas gift lists to cleaning bathrooms, from managing Cub Scout meetings to kids’ school work.

I pray that one day I will share more deeply in Paul’s confidence that “the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” I am not always able to see that good work, not always sure it is slowly moving toward completion, in me or in the world. But there is no better season than Advent in which to try. Let us continue to hope then that something good is growing, even now, even though we cannot yet see it nor imagine the greatness it will bring.

Get to know Kerry Weber, executive editor

1. Favorite Christmas Song

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but especially the version that includes the line “until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”

2. Favorite Christmas Tradition

Watching “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street,” a tradition that began in my childhood, carried on into my adulthood (long after it was age-appropriate), and then found new life in watching it with my own children and their cousins.

3. Favorite Christmas Recipe

Pillsbury slice-and-bake sugar cookies are truly my favorite: Buy dough. Cut dough. Add festive sprinkles. Bake. Or (and I am probably not legally allowed to recommend this) don’t bake. Eat.

4. Favorite Article You Wrote This Year

I appreciated speaking with Bishop William D. Byrne, of my hometown Diocese of Springfield, Mass., about everything from the Jan. 6 insurrection to priestly vocations.

5. Favorite Christmas Photo

No need to "mullet" over, this 1986 Weber family Christmas card, featuring my younger brother, left, and me, proudly sporting that era's distinctive hairstyle, remains one of my favorites. 

christmas card

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