|Christ at Heart's Door, by Warner Sallman|
By 5 pm on any given day, each of us has opened or closed roughly a dozen doors. To open or close a door is a natural, unthinking act- unless we have forgotten our key or our arms are too full to manage the door.
Doors are an integral part of life. They provide passageway to where we want to go. They offer us privacy or protection from unwanted elements. Doors are also instruments of power. We can shut people out or admit them.
Advent is a time for opening some doors and closing others. It’s a time to open the door to a deeper, stronger relationship with the Holy One, to open our hearts to new and renewed relationships with people, to open our minds to new attitudes, practices and ways of thinking that birth in us a future full of hope.
Maybe you can recall seeing the well known painting by the artist, Warner Sallman, which shows Jesus standing at the door and knocking? Jesus comes to the door of the human heart, knocks and waits for an invitation to enter. The outside of the door has no knob, which says that the human heart can only be opened from within. We have the power to welcome or refuse entry.
In order to hear Jesus’ knock, we need to be awake
– awake to His coming here and now
- awake to His coming birthday
- awake to His coming at the end of time.
Are you continually alert? I’m not. We get distracted by the sheer business of our lives.
Being busy is not a bad thing, unless it prevents us from doing the work of Advent, which is to welcome God into our lives in fresh new ways.
The knock comes, and we react to it in different ways. We may be cautious, curious to see who’s there, irritated to be interrupted, ashamed that our house is not in order. We may be curt at the door, guarded, fearful, elated – or we may ignore the knock completely. Go away, God! I don’t want to see you today.
You may think that this idea of opening some doors and closing others is a mild-mannered approach to Advent. But let’s think about two doors to close which require personal discipline and hard work.
Close the door to noise, even briefly everyday and welcome quiet to let the gifts of the season seep into our consciousness. Be with the silence. “Well. Ok,” you might say, “but then what do I say to God?” Say “Come, Lord Jesus!” or maybe say nothing at all. Let God speak to you in the silence.
Close the door to violence. Isaiah talks about beating our swords into plowshares, i.e. making peace with what could be the weapons of war. We are surrounded by war and violence in our culture, we find it in the words we say to one another, in our subtle lack of respect for people, things and ourselves. We need not support violence, participate in it, give it a place in our homes, encourage it or buy it.
As we move through Advent, two figures help us open our doors to Jesus knocking.
Mary, who did not let her hesitation keep her from extending a welcome to the invitation of God. Mary is every person who has stood at the door of an unknown future and said Yes.
Jesus is called the Key of David, in the ancient collection of Advent prayers called the O antiphons:
Jesus, Key of David, is the one who opens and no one shuts, the one who shuts and no one opens.
Jesus is the key to our future.
During Advent, let the physical doors we open and close throughout the day remind us that our comings and goings are opportunities to meet and welcome Emmanuel, to offer kindness, a cookie, a cup of teas to others.
The key is in the lock.
The divine visitor is at our Advent door.
Don’t open it a crack. Open it wide.
~Joan Sobala, SSJ