Can you believe it’s Advent already? Perhaps, it’s among the first miracles of the season, the truth that it surprises me every year and stops me in my tracks. So, too, did the following question I received via email, “Do you pray with your camera in hand?” At first glance, my response was no. Upon further reflection, I realized that in moments of prayerful awe, times of surprise, wonder and reverence, I do pray with my iPhone in hand because I want to capture something of that moment. So, I’ve kind of accepted the challenge to share in this spiritual exercise by sharing it with you as an avenue to Hope, Peace, Joy and Love this Advent season.
I think Advent and photography have things in common don’t you? Both Advent and photography enter an area where mere words cannot reach. And throughout the seasons of our lives, our experience changes, our relationship with God and with God’s world is dynamic! Both Advent and photography require focus, intention, quiet, stillness, darkness and waiting.
So, this is how this photographic journal of Advent 2015 works. It comes with a calendar and there’s one word on each day. On the day marked “community”, participants are asked to take a picture (perhaps many) of community and their experience of it. I’m curious to see what photo(s) I’ll take and what photos I will see posted online as many people are participating on the Alive magazine website. I’m ever hopeful that in the hustle and bustle of December, this practice of faith will redeem the moments we spend in traffic or in line up after line up or overwhelmed by the world around us and what’s going on in our own little neck of the woods. I’m hoping I will find myself marveling at the community of faith, people, places, seeking opportunities to share a word of kindness, taking lots of time to offer an eyes wide open prayer. After all, Jesus’ coming is to make this broken world whole and beautiful with God’s love. The presence of Jesus is an incredible revelation of God’s love for us. God-with-us in a way we cannot miss! Our greatest gift to God is the love we share.
As with every season, I started thinking about my favourite Christmas traditions and decorations. Think of the things that we see this time of year, beautiful lights on Christmas trees, wreaths, Santa, Elves, Reindeer, gifts, just to name a few. It wasn’t too long ago that what people saw and decorated their homes with this season was the nativity scene, crèche. Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have been the first to build a “presepio” (from the Latin, “manger”) in the 13th century. His nativity had real people representing the different characters in the Christmas story. This inspired other people to organize real-life nativity scenes in their own towns and communities. If you look carefully at these scenes, you will notice the inclusion of some interesting folks (farmers, children playing, the Pope, etc.) Why? Because as the Gospel of Luke states, the Son of God entered history, our history! Not as an idea or a dream, as flesh and blood in a world of tragedy, beauty, joy and suffering. Jesus is in this world and our lives. Christ is born into the world today; we are the flesh, the Body of Christ, born into the world every day as we live the gospel with our lives.
As Mary held her son and looked at the faces of the shepherds, she pondered it all in her heart. Like Mary, our understanding of Jesus is always and forever a work in progress. Our relationship with him is a lifelong adventure. There’s always more to know, more depth and breadth.
I hope to see you often during this season and on behalf of my family, may the coming of the Christ child bless your living and may your celebration of Christmas be blessed. And, may 2016 find us prayerfully and confidently practicing our faith in thought, word and deed together.