By Rev. Daniel Pratt Morris-Chapman
Darkness. Dark when you get up. Dark when you get home. This is my earliest recollection of the Advent season which, in Europe, intersects with the winter solstice. There are even places, in the far north, where the sun barely rises at all. Life is cloaked in shadow and day feels like night.
In a way, these memories signify my spiritual state at the time. Though I believed in God, I presumed he was far, far away. I didn’t know Jesus and I certainly didn’t understand my place in the world. Our lives are animated by meaning and purpose. It is a horrible feeling not to know who you are. As the Northern Hemisphere shivers without the sun, so our souls perish without the light of Christ.
At Advent, we reflect upon Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, where God became a human being. However, we are also encouraged to reflect upon God’s reign and purpose in our lives. If we accept Jesus’ death and resurrection, if we embrace Him as our Lord and Saviour, “We are no longer … in the region of shadows: we have the true Saviour set before us” (Newman, “Parochial and Plain Sermons,” V:30). God knows and calls us by name. “We have a purpose, to be Holy, as Christ is Holy.”
We also have a particular vocation: “to do something or to be something for which no one else is created” (Newman, “Meditations and Devotions,” 300-301).
If we embrace the Light of the world, Christ’s particular calling upon our life will be revealed and we will move “out of the shadows” and into the truth. This Advent, as we anticipate the Second Coming, when Jesus will come as Lord and ruler of all, let us remember that we do have a purpose: “to be Holy, as Christ is Holy” (ibid.).
Rev. Daniel Pratt Morris-Chapman is the minister of Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church and interim director for the Methodist Ecumenical Centre in Rome. A presbyter of the Methodist Church in Britain, Rev. Morris-Chapman arrived in Rome with his wife, Grace, and their three children this past summer. He is also a scholar of St. John Henry Newman.
(Photo courtesy of Rev. Daniel Pratt Morris-Chapman)