Is the world we have the world we want?

by Julia Corcoran

We are in the middle of Advent and it is always important to think about why we have this time of reflection before Christmas: a time to prepare, a time to wait, and a time to think.

As a child, I used to find Advent long and boring. I didn’t understand why I had to wait so long before Christmas and I looked forwarded to lighting each candle because it meant Christmas was getting closer. Now as a young adult, I find myself with the opposite view. Though I still love Christmas and get very excited by it, I know that when Christmas day has come and gone, it means another year over. Instead of finding Advent a drag, now I find it rushes by; another week a candle is lit is one less week till the big day.

I found myself reflecting on how strangely we celebrate Christmas. Here in the UK (and maybe it's similar in the USA) people build up for Christmas, weeks and months in advance, each one planning how they’re going to spend the perfect day. Each one is hoping for a day of peace and harmony throughout the house, where every member of the family will relax and join in the festivities and Christmas traditions. And maybe for some this will happen. But probably in most households there will be at least one argument, one person sulking over having got the wrong present, one person stressed out by all the cooking they have to do, one person sad because Christmas brings back bad memories, one person annoyed by the TV program being watched --- unfortunately the message of Christmas will be completely lost. If your season is spent planning for this one day to go perfectly, what do you do when it seems to go wrong?

And that is why I'm thankful for Advent. With Advent we have this time to prepare and wait, but we aren’t waiting and preparing just for December 25th. We aren’t just opening doors and eating chocolate on a count down. We are able to use the four weeks as a chance to prepare ourselves for meeting the Lord. We are reminded every year that we don’t just live our lives for the pleasures and joys of this life, but for the joy of eternal life. We are reminded for four weeks to think of others before ourselves and our own preparations. We are reminded to think of those throughout the world who may not be in the fortunate situation that we find ourselves in this year.

With Advent drawing to a close, I find myself reflecting in Mass about how often the word "peace" is said, and how during this Christmas season we think of "Peace on Earth" as a lovely concept. I am fortunate enough that for probably 99% of my time, I live in a reasonably safe place. I’m really at no risk.

But sometimes in Mass I imagine what it would be like to talk about peace in a place where I have to listen to gun shots in the background, working out how far away they are, at which point I have to leave Mass, ready to run for my life. I find myself saying the "Our Father" with not much thought about what forgiving others means, but what if I said that prayer after a horrific crime had been committed against me or my family? I imagine that if that was my life, the words "Peace on Earth" would have a very different meaning. It would no longer be a nice concept that I hope does happen one day, it would be a reality I desperately needed. It would be at the top of my prayer list.

Which makes me wonder: why are those of us who are fortunate enough not to have worry about this, not prioritizing it more? Why do we allow it to be only nice words that we say, and not an inspiring goal that we try to make a reality? After all, these Advent days are here in order for us to prepare for Jesus’ coming --- so why don’t we spend it preparing a world that He'd want to see?

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Julia Corcoran is the "JPIC Advocacy Worker for Climate and Migration" with the UK Columbans. She lives and works in London. 

Weekly Reflections on Justice & Columban Spirituality are written by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, and visiting Columban Missionaries. We hope these reflections help to guide you on your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.