On the Web: Introduction | Week #1 | Week #2 | Week #3 | Week #4 PDF: Introduction | Week #1 | Week #2 | Week #3 | Week #4 Why "A Different Kind of Advent"? We begin Advent this year in a very changed world. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused us all to rethink nearly every aspect of our lives. Personal and communal life, worship, ministry, care for others - the pandemic has posed massive challenges to what was considered normal just a few months ago. Our broader society also experiences the pandemic exposing inequalities and fissures that cry out for address and transformation. In addition, we stand in solidarity with the world in a way unparalleled in our history as we all strive to re-orient our lives in the face of an unseen virus. As we arrive at this very different Advent, we are invited to ponder the Advent readings and open ourselves to the transformative power of the Spirit that speaks to us of the ways to be love and mercy in this changed world. Pondering seems a helpful posture this Advent. It appears in Luke’s gospel when Mary brings the child Jesus to the Temple and Simeon tells her that “This child is destined to be the downfall and the rise of many in Israel, a sign that will be opposed - and you yourself shall be pierced with a sword – so that the thoughts of many hearts may be laid bare.” These words come after the joyful proclamation of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. They are told this child will bring peace and joy. Jesus’ birth then is both a sign of peace and the downfall of many. Mary’s response to this revelation is pondering, treasuring these things in her heart. Her pondering posture comes to a climax at the foot of the cross. While she may not fully comprehend God’s presence in Jesus’ crucifixion, and like any mother would like to protect her child from this horrible violence, she trusts that the God that has blessed her and been with her throughout her life is indeed active and present in this moment also. That is the heart of the meaning of pondering. It embraces two seemingly contradictory experiences and trusts that God is in both and is present and working through them. It holds them and reflects on them, seeking to trace that divine presence and its challenge now and in the future. It aims to discern God’s presence even in the most unlikely and difficult persons and events. It challenges us to respond as Jesus did with mercy and compassion, especially to the most vulnerable and neglected. It calls us to find God in every situation and person. And when we encounter problems and persons not reflective of God’s love and mercy, we find ways to stand in solidarity with them, accompany them and work to bring healing, transformation, and reconciliation. This Advent may our pondering posture open us to God’s compassionate presence and empower us to re-imagine how to live the gospel in our very different world.