Thomas Merton is known for his prayer which begins, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.” This uncertainty about our vocation, our path, our life, is comforted in the hope we find in Advent. Merton trusted that though he didn’t have all the answers, God would not leave him to face his journey alone. This is the meaning of Advent.
Advent reminds us that such darkness will be quenched with the light of Emmanuel and the hope for a God who will indeed be with us. Through Mary’s experience of the Annunciation, she rediscovered that God was concerned with humanity all along. The coming of Jesus would incarnate this reality, creating for us a visible sign of hope and redemption.
Discernment in the midst of uncertainty sometimes has those Advent characteristics of darkness, waiting, and hope. We know God is there but for some reason the light hasn’t yet shone through. First we must cease clinging to one path or another. And then, the tiniest of flickers illumines a flame that sets our hearts ablaze with the certain knowledge that God-with-us is guiding us and has always been guiding us.
The first reading from Baruch on the Second Sunday of Advent speaks of God’s children, “rejoicing that they are remembered by God. ”¦for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” (Bar. 5:5,9) Thomas Merton knew God’s lead and company. Mary did too. Our lives are an ongoing Advent of patient waiting and trust, discerning God’s presence and call. But they are also an ongoing Christmas, incarnating God’s light and glory through our actions and choices.
We can trust that despite any murky darkness the light will grow stronger, revealing that God has already been with us from the beginning.