You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born . . . fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter into you long before it happens . . . just wait for the birth . . . for the hour of new clarity. – Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875-1926
When Jesus advises us to “become as a child”, I think this is part of the invitation: to re- imagine how life might be in the future and even learn to play – like children – with our lives. It is so easy to get in a rut and just move through life from day to day doing the same things over and over. There is comfort in that repetition because we don’t have to think, we can simply exist on a form of cruise control.
But then, something happens to upset our routines and habits such as an injury or illness, a new boss, a natural or human-made disaster, or the death of a friend or family member and suddenly we feel unprepared and lost. We haven’t imagined change or practiced doing new things and so we don’t know how to do it. We only embrace change when we’re forced to by unhappy circumstances.
But we can assume a stance that says change is necessary, natural, and coming soon. We can try out new things and new ways of thinking every day. When you think ahead, can you imagine what your life will be like in one year? five years? What changes would you like to make? Can we practice new things now to help us prepare?
You can certainly build your faith in many ways, but one of the great gifts of following the liturgical calendar is that it invites us to integrate whatever is currently occupying our hearts and minds with the ancient wisdom of the tradition. It asks us to imagine – and practice – something we may not actually be feeling at the moment. Hence, we are called to “rejoice” just before the winter solstice when the earth is at its darkest.
Today is the third Sunday of Advent and it is traditionally known as Gaudete Sunday from the introit of the traditional latin mass, “Gaudete in Domino semper” (Rejoice in the Lord always). This medieval song celebrates that the “time of grace has come” and calls everyone to rejoice. Ready or not – rejoice. And if you can’t quite find the joy, “fake it ’till you make it”. So even if you’re having a blue Christmas (like I am this year), see if you can imagine joy – if only for today.
There are lots of wacky renditions of “gaudete” on youtube. I like this one – enjoy!