So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
My Dear Friends in Christ,
These words of Jesus sound a little ominous as we begin the Advent season. I have to admit that the lead-up to Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the lights, decorations, the carols, the movies on the Hallmark Channel, the celebrations, the visits of friends and families, and, of course the FOOD! But we are also reminded by this season that it is not merely X number of shopping days until Christmas or preparation of hearth and home for a celebration. Advent is preparing for the coming of Christ and not just getting ready for Christmas.
Remember Christ comes to us in three ways: He came to us in history: as a man born into poverty, born in a stable, beneath a star. And He will come again in majesty at the end of time as we celebrated last week on the Feast of Christ the King with all His glory offering God’s final and righteous judgment. In between these two comings, Christ also comes to us every day in mystery. Veiled in the sacraments under the forms of bread and wine, in the words of absolution and the healing power of anointing. And more than that in the joy of a child, or the wisdom of our elders, in sacrifices offered and mercies received. He comes to be with us.
Now, there was no welcome for Him when He came in history, forcing Him out into the stable. And we’ll have no choice but to recognize and welcome Him when He comes in majesty as every knee will bend and head will bow. But how do we welcome Him now? This very question is the reason for this holy season. Advent is a season of hope, not the greeting card kind of hope but the gritty hope that recognizes even if only intellectually at first how close God is and how much God wants to come into our hearts and our lives.
This season is about the choice we make. We are called to CHOOSE JOY. Joy is not just happiness which comes and goes depending on our situation.
Joy is the deep and abiding Presence of God in our lives.
Joy is like the depths of the ocean which remain quiet and tranquil, no matter what the surface is like. Advent requires the preparation of our hearts and minds, our eyes and ears, to seek and to see how God comes, how Christ is present, how the Spirit can fill us. Advent asks us to look beyond the thrills and the frills of Christmas (fun and important as these are!) and to focus on God.
Advent prepares us to CHOOSE JOY, to put God first and allow those thrills and frills to point to the deeper reality of Emmanuel, God with us.
Let us pray for one another more fervently this Advent season that we know the close, abiding Presence of God. Let’s also pray in a special way for all those who are suffering or struggling, who find it difficult to know or to CHOOSE JOY: all those who are sick, lonely or depressed; those have lost loved ones; those who are poor, hungry, homeless, unemployed, underemployed; those who are far from home, those who are immigrants, those who are serving in our military. Perhaps you are one of these. Then know of our prayers for you.