During the Advent season, Christians are invited to awaken to the coming of Christ by recalling the past, awakening to the present, and anticipating the future. We are reminded that there is a bigger story being told in this world, and we are living in the “time between”.
In previous posts, we explored how the practice of yoga can help draw back the veil of Maya, allowing us to see the world more clearly and awakening us to the Advent, or coming, of Christ. We were reminded that the first coming of Christ, the birth of Jesus, was the fulfillment of God’s promises, and the beginning of God’s ultimate plan to heal the world; reuniting heaven and earth. Through Jesus, humankind was rescued from the power of darkness, and reconciled back to God as sons and daughters. Today, we will consider the second Advent of Christ.
The Advent season is a time of awakening to the present coming of Jesus Christ.
While we look back and rejoice over the first coming, the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light born in the darkness, we cannot deny that there is still much darkness in the world. There is brokenness all around us: death, disease, addiction, pain, and suffering. Even more, if we look close enough, we can recognize the darkness that exists within our own hearts; the brokenness which is knit into our very nature. Though we were made in the image of God, this image was deeply marred and severely distorted by the Fall of mankind. The good news of Scripture and the central message of God’s revelation tells us that through Jesus Christ, we are being made new and we are the first fruits of a new creation. Through the life-long process of sanctification, the follower of Christ is shaped by God, and is moved to love what God loves, to live the way that God would have us live, and is transformed into the likeness of Christ.
In the Bible, Paul teaches, “that our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.” (Romans 6:6) and exhorts us to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
A traditional yoga practice outlines a process of self-examination in which the “kleshas” of the mind can be purified. Klesha is a term from Indian philosophy and yoga, meaning a “poison” or “affliction”. Like the biblical concept of sin, klesha is considered a negative mental state that clouds the mind and manifests itself in unwholesome actions. The kleshas are said to be the root cause of all suffering in the world. There are five kleshas which are explained in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra as:
- avidya -ignorance of or misunderstanding of the true nature of reality
- asmita -over-identifying with your ego, (worldly identity versus heavenly identity)
- raga -desire, or attachment to pleasure
- dvesha -avoidance of what is not pleasurable
- abhinivesha -attachment to life and fear of death
By understanding sin-nature in light of the kleshas, we are able to clearly see the reality of the world and our own true nature. The Christian believes that Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin. Jesus has gifted us with the Holy Spirit who is with us, and dwells in us, continually working to transform our lives from the inside out. Meditation, reflection, discipline, communion and surrender to God are the techniques that Yoga offers us to burn away the impurities of the kleshas and to help purify the mind.
Advent invites us to see Jesus, coming into the present moment, dismantling the power of sin and allowing him to reshape our lives. Christ is coming today, even now, into our hearts and minds to reveal the dark places, where fear, hurt, and sin would like to fester and multiply. Jesus is asking us to trust him, to allow him to heal our brokenness with the love of God.
During Advent, we look back to remember what God has already done, but we also look inward, to see what God would like to do, and we prepare room for the birth of Christ in our lives here and now. Finally, next week, we will look forward with anticipation to when Christ returns to rule triumphantly over life in heaven and earth. Until then, we are invited to awaken to the present coming of Christ and reflect:
- How do we heed Paul’s exhortation for self- examination and confession? (here is a great resource)
- What circumstances, situations and relationships in our lives seem hopeless and desperate?
- How would God like to birth his Light & Love in the dark and messy parts of our lives?
This Advent, we are reminded that we are not left alone to deal with our kleshas, or sins, on our own. The message of Advent is Emmanuel, God with us, bringing his Light here and now, even in the darkest times and the messiest places. Jesus invites us to call out to him and ask him to birth his Love in our lives.
Pranayama breath prayer for Transformation from Psalm 51:10:
Inhale: Create in me a clean heart, oh God,
Exhale: and renew a right spirit within me.