Dec 7 2011

Advent reflection: Choosing to be ‘eager,’ not ‘anxious’

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

“Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

I confess that I get a little irritated by some common ways that people misuse words.

For example, it bugs me when I hear notoriety used as a synonym for fame, or when people say less when fewer would be more appropriate. (And don’t even get me started on very unique!)

I recognize this as my own little persnickety hang-up, and my purpose here is not to lecture about the decline of the English language.

I really just want to set the table for a reflection on one common misusage that seems especially pertinent during Advent.

People often say they are anxious when they are looking forward to something. For example: “It has been two weeks since Joe left on his trip and I am anxious for him to come home.”

But anxious is a form of anxiety, which means a state of worry or apprehension ñ hardly the sentiment Joe would want to be greeted with upon his return!

What people really mean to communicate in such situations is that they are eager, and eagerness is a quality worthy of proper recognition.

Being eager is about anticipation, confidence and hopefulness. It is one of the most Christian of emotions and not one to let slip away from our collective vocabulary.

The Scriptures for the Third Sunday of Advent fairly crackle with eagerness.

In the first reading the Prophet Isaiah eagerly announces an era of justice and favor following the long suffering of the Babylonian captivity. In the second reading, Paul advises the Christian community to be ever eager for opportunities to live in God’s grace.

Wilkister, CFCA sponsored child in Kenya, and her mother fold clothes

Wilkister, left, a CFCA sponsored child in Kenya, and her mother fold clothes.

Even the Gospel echoes this spirit as John the Baptist continues to divert the spotlight away from himself and onto Jesus, the one whose coming he so eagerly announces.

For all his talk of straightening desert paths and loosening sandal-straps, John might as well be shouting, “Get ready, folks! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Choosing between anxious and eager isn’t just a technicality or a linguistic exercise. The two words communicate very different perspectives.

While it is possible to be eager and anxious at the same time, one feeling or the other will almost always dominate a person’s outlook.

CFCA works with people in great poverty, more often than not in systems that make it very hard for them to improve their situations.

It is easy for those living in such conditions to become anxious, and there is constant temptation to allow that anxiety to morph into despair.

Yet our blessed experience is that when CFCA sponsorship is introduced into a child’s life, eagerness takes hold ñ eagerness to embrace opportunity, eagerness to express gratitude, and eagerness to give back to family and community.

Such eagerness comes from the liberation to dream and spills over into infectious joy.

So, this Advent, where are you on the continuum between anxiety and eagerness? Is your default mode one of dread about the future or hope in all it promises?

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