"The Dawn is Breaking"
I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. The house was still dark and it was cold out, so I pulled up the covers and tried to shut off the world that was beckoning me to wake up. I then suddenly realized that today was the beginning of the Advent season on the Christian calendar and while many may think that Advent is a season devoted to “getting ready” for Christmas, Advent is actually a season for waking up.
Now that Thanksgiving is over many people are already celebrating the “holiday season” at full force and many Christians hardly even observe Advent because, for them, Christmas is already here. Yet, as I see it, we dare not neglect the message of Advent. This is one of the most important seasons of the year, not only for Christians but for anyone on any sort of path because the goal of the spiritual journey, regardless of the path, is always about “waking up from sleep.”
Author and spiritual guide, Anthony DeMello, put it this way:
Spirituality means waking up.
Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep.
They’re born asleep, they live asleep,
they die in their sleep without ever waking up.
They never understand the loveliness and the beauty
of this thing we call human existence.
Most people tell you that they want to get out of kindergarten,
but don’t believe them!
All they want to do is mend their broken toys.
I find a profound truth in this observation. Many of us make our way through our everyday lives snuggling under the covers of our own well-worn comfortable ideas while a whole, wide, beautiful world beckons us to wake up and enjoy the beauty of what it means to be alive. This is a season to throw away the old toys and finally get out of kindergarten.
As a Christian I have discovered that the Buddha is actually one of my best teachers when it comes to helping me understand what this Advent time is all about. Buddha sat under a tree and vowed to do nothing but just stay there alert in the moment until he discovered the true meaning of life. He sat there with no thoughts about where he wanted to go, where he had been, or what he was looking for, he just made himself available to the present moment and he woke up to the meaning of life. He woke up and found himself aware and alert in the “now.” He woke up from from the sleepy isolation of his own little ego hidden in his own little world, realizing that he belonged to everything and everyone in a wonderful web of relationship.
Advent is a time to sit under the proverbial tree and “without distraction” pay attention to our everyday life as as it happens. This is a season for watching sunrises and sunsets, it’s a season for paying attention to the bright stars of night and for being aware of all those people who enter into our daily lives, a season to turn off the cell phones when you have a meal and listen instead to the people at the table. This is not a season for getting ready for anything, it’s a season for practicing the discipline of being present to what “is.”
I am reminded of this wise and insightful observation about waking up that I once found in a Buddhist essay - a perfect meditation for the Advent season:
Whatever we are looking for is already right here.
We are usually elsewhere - that’s the problem.
When we are awake and when we pay attention to our everyday life
we discover something truly wonderful -
our old regular pointless lives are actually incredibly joyful,
amazingly, astoundingly, relentlessly,
There is a beautiful Advent hymn in the Christian tradition that seems to apply to all people on all our many paths. In these cold dark days of early-winter we all have the tendency to snuggle under our cozy life-covers, but the dawn is breaking and the morning is beckoning us:
Wake, awake the night is dying,
Awake ye children of the light!