Nuala Patricia Kenny is a native New Yorker and a Sister of Charity of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She is a physician, pediatrician and bioethicist, who practices, teaches and works at several hospitals in Canada. She has received many honors for her work in child health, medical education and health policy. Past president of both the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Bioethics Society, she was chair of the Values Committee of the 1997 Prime Minister of Canada's National Forum on Health. She has authored numerous papers and several books.
I hate waiting. I'm not very patient. I think fast, talk fast and, even at 78, I walk fast. As a doctor treating seriously ill children, I was trained to respond STAT.
Every year when Advent arrives, I receive valuable lessons about waiting. I remember my childhood when waiting for Christmas was not irksome but a magical time filled with anticipation, a true "Advent-ure." The Advent calendar's words of encouragement were a joy to open daily. Christmas was worth waiting for. Waiting was possible because I trusted in God's promise of something wonderful.
Today, the sacred mystery of the Nativity of Jesus has been overtaken by Santa Claus and twinkling lights or festivals of gift-giving or sentimental stories about families coming home. It is completely disconnected from the wondrous spiritual and theological mystery of the Incarnation. Advent has little meaning in these stories. In fact, the Christmas season begins for most after Thanksgiving and ends on Dec. 25. The countdown is measured in shopping days left. Advent calendars are now filled with chocolate and liquor and lack messages of inspiration.
Sermons through Advent predictably lament the secularization and call for "keeping Christ in Christmas." For me, the special grace of Advent is another God-given opportunity to remember and rejoice in the sure knowledge that God so loves us that he sent his Son, Jesus, to take on our fragility, vulnerability and dependence. Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness (Philippians 2:6-7). The Incarnation makes all flesh holy: glowing young flesh, sagging old flesh, bruised and bleeding flesh, and flesh of every color and hue.
Every crèche and crib celebrate the sign of the all-powerful God's infinite love in a helpless infant born in poverty, political oppression and social exclusion: "She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room at the inn" (Luke 2:7). We are given a unique opportunity to ponder with Mary this wondrous event and its meaning for our own vulnerability and need for God.
Today, we have expectations for instant response from our computers, our microwaves and medicine. Advent reminds me of the need for time in relationships because the Incarnation is not a once-a-year event, but the sign of God's passionate love affair with me and all creation.
We’re delighted to share with you this blog from the monthly feature “The Life” courtesy of our friends at Global Sisters Report. This month, The Life panelists reflected on Advent. CLICK HERE to read more blogs from The Life series, GSR’s monthly feature about the unique, challenging, and very specific lives of women religious around the world.
Image above: Sister of Charity Nuala Patricia Kenny poses with a patient. Kenny, who is a physician, pediatrician and bioethicist, said working with courageous children who live every day with vulnerability and disability have shown her the importance of patience. (Courtesy of Nuala Kenny)