One of the themes of Advent is watching and waiting. A kind of patient, alert spirit is cultivated. The spirit of hope.
We are to sit on the edge of our seats, waiting for the show to begin. We’re at the bus stop, looking down the road any sign of the bus we feel is already late. We’re sitting in stillness and in contemplation waiting to hear the word of the Lord.
The opposite of this patient, watchful and alert spirit of waiting is restlessness. We wander around aimlessly like a madwoman with wild hair. We channel hop looking for yet another entertainment. We fidget and fuss and worry and bite our nails with nervousness. We grumble and complain and bark with impatience.
What is it that makes us so restless and so unhappy?
Some say it is desire. The root of all unhappiness is desire.
We desire what we do not have, and we desire more what we cannot have.
But what is at the root of that desire? I think it is something else.
It is fear. The nameless fear in the middle of the night. It is the fear that haunts our waking hours as a gnawing restlessness that focuses itself in desire.
We desire as we hunger and we don’t know what we desire or for what we hunger.
That desire and restlessness is rooted in fear.
“But what am I afraid of?”
That’s just the thing. We don’t know what we’re afraid of. The fear is formless. The fear is simply there as a ground level anxiety in our human condition.
At times, of course it comes out as real fear and anxiety. Some small thing sparks it or some great concern fans the flames and the fear erupts in full terror. The fear comes out as nervousness and discontent, impatience and irritability and gazing sleepless into the dark.
More often the fear surfaces as resentment towards others, suspicion of others and condemnation of others.
Why do we bad mouth and blame the other? Because we fear. We fear they will have something better than us. They will have something we cannot have. They will be better than us and shame us and their superiority will put us down and we fear.
Why do we strive so hard to succeed and be better than others? Because we fear.
Why do we work so hard to earn so little and then spend it on stuff we don’t need? Because we fear. We fear being alone and not being secure. We fear not being loved for who we are so we try to be loved for what we have.
Why do we put on artificial masks and do things and say things to people who we don’t like in order to win approval from them even though their approval means nothing? Because we fear.
Why do we attack other racial groups, other socio economic groups, immigrants, Democrats, Republicans, the rich, the poor, the Catholics, the Protestants, the bishops, the clergy, the people, the neighbors, the children ,the adults, the parents, the students, the teachers. Why do we attack and blame most anyone but ourselves? Because we fear.
Fear is the root of original sin for the original sin is that of pride: “I am the best. I am like God.” That’s pride, and that ugliness springs forth from fear.
Fear at the foundation which is fear of God.
That is why the proverb is so profound: “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
Not fear for its own sake, but the realization that the fear is there, and once we realize that the fear of the Lord is there like a silent beast in the darkened cellar of our lives we can begin to face the fear.
Then one day, if grace is given and the journey leads that way, then one day if the door is opened and we see our way there we come to realize at that very same depth that the message of the angel is always, “Do not fear. Do not be afraid.”
This is an Advent message from the angel to you. “Do not be afraid.”
Do not be afraid because God is with you. He is on his way.
Perfect Love is about to enter the world and as we know, “Perfect love casts out all fear.”