One of the things about Advent that interests me is the way in which it interweaves comfortable relief and startling, uncomfortable alertness.
That God would take human form and, for the first time, enter human time (chronos time) by choosing to leave God’s time (kairos time) is startling. It seems urgent; and Advent is all about themes of being “awake.” Our hymns especially discuss this theme (Sleepers Awake, etc.) and so Advent is a time in which we wake up, startled into a new awareness that God chose to come to be with us – with us in our fears. With us in our hopes. With us in our regrets. With us in our griefs and with us in our joys.
And alongside this theme of being awake, there is this theme of comfort. “Comfort, comfort ye my people” is one of my favorite Advent hymns. We are startled awake and at the same time we are comforted.
And when I see small babies, I see that we humans have this as a natural way of being in the world. When a baby monkey or ape, asleep on its back, is startled awake, he or she reflexively grabs at the air before being fully awake! Scientists believe that this is a reflex left over from when we were apes 200,000 years ago. Apes carry their babies on their backs and babies sleep a lot. In danger, a mother will leap away from the danger. So if the baby on her back is a sleep, nature has trained it to grab her mother’s back-hair without thinking, the split second it awakes startled. This way the baby doe snot fall off and get left behind. It’s body wakes and grabs before its mind even knows what is going on. This is a survival technique, and we humans have this in our bodies still.
Our propensities to be startled, to be awakened is a way to survive. The difference between people is not if they do or do not have a propensity to be awakened. The difference between people is how they respond to stimuli. Some lash out from insecurity while others wait, listen, think and even pray – awakened, but not punching the air around them in a desperate attempt to fight off a world they do not trust.
This image is of one of my favorite foods: Thai Penang Curry. It is so simple. A tablespoon of red curry paste and a stable spoon of peanut butter is mixed with half a can of coconut milk on a high simmer. Once combined, another can and a half of coconut milk is added and into that is simmered whatever vegetables and meat or fish you choose. When that is simmered, thin it with any stock or simply add sweet thai basil and some ground peanuts and serve. It will wake you up with the curry’s picante and it will comfort you with the health of the ingredients. I usually use scallops or lamb, green peppers, onions, baby corn and broccoli slaw but it will 9is designed to) take anything you have in the fridge! I once used leftover meatloaf chunks and leftover broccoli and it was delish!
Advent is a time to drink deep of “awake-ness” and of “comfort” – at the same time – so that when Jesus comes to be among us, we are both awake and nourished of body, mind and soul.