Imagine yourself in a muddy, filthy trench. You’ve been lying there for days, perhaps even for weeks. You’re not sure what strange powers that be put you there, but there you are. 50 meters away, others are caught in a similar situation – although they speak a little funny and are dressed a little different. You are both well armed and well defended, with good reason to distrust and strict orders to shoot on sight.

The age-old question arises: Which is more powerful? Peace or Conflict? Hate or Love? Trust or Distrust?

The historians report that as the years of the First World War went by, so did the humanity with which it was fought. The cries of men suffocating on mustard gas can do horrible things to the heart. So can drone attacks and terrorism; all types of violence and evil tend to distort our perception of our fellow brother and sister.  Yet, with all the justifications on hand, the key question remains: Are you willing to stick your head out?

Advent is both a time of penance as well as hopeful expectation, but hope is never passive, never pure inertia. In meditating upon the somber darkness of our world– and of our own hearts– we give life to an ever greater desire for the advents of He who is the Light who scatters that darkness. In encountering Christ, we can no longer remain indifferent before our brothers and sisters. After Christ’s coming, mediocrity and cowardliness have no place in the Christian’s heart! In his littleness, the baby Jesus invites us to re-discover our greatness, the heights towards which we are all called to live!

This beautiful reenactment reminds us of how the light of Christ can be shared when men and woman have the courage to stand up and reach out. For this reason, we should take a moment and meditate on our own lives.

Don’t we all find ourselves “entrenched in” sometimes? Be it at home, at the workplace, at school, at Church, etc? When the other becomes my enemy, when we no longer share a common language or a common space, when the reasons for distrust outweigh those for trust, when one is willing to bare the stench of the trench instead of the fresh air of unity, one can be sure that things are not going in the right direction.

Think, then, of Christ’s coming and this season of preparation as time to say: “Time out!” Take the risk! Rub your eyes a bit and take a moment to look the other in the eye. Learn to see your brother and sister, not your enemy! Stick your head out and regain those lost friendships and to intone those songs of brotherhood once more. Remember, of course, that the key to authentic friendship is found only in Jesus himself.  Any aspirations of unity without him in the center will always come up short.

Christ comes to show us the path towards our authentic and full humanity; do we have the courage to follow him?