Jer 33:14-16 I Thes 3:12-4:2 Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!”
Last Monday I had the privilege of blessing the Christmas tree at our hospital in Watervliet, Students from Coloma High School sang beautifully Christmas carols. Going around our little towns and cities we see the festive atmosphere everywhere with Christmas lights. Although our society has begun its preparations for the birth of Christ, even as they are hesitant to mention his birth, the Church begins its preparations today.
Our liturgy, however, wants us to know that we are not only preparing for a special celebration three weeks from now, but our readings put before us the bigger picture. It’s not just the celebration of Jesus’ birth that we are to prepare for but also we must prepare for the day when he comes again to bring us into his kingdom. Advent tells us Christ is coming, but it also asks us, are we ready to meet him? If we are not, his coming 2000 years ago will have little or no value for us.
For some people his second coming will be a frightening time. “People will die in fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world…” But if we are prepared, not just for Christmas, but for Christ, the Lord tells us “stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” His coming will be for those who have followed him faithfully a day of victory and joy.
The gospel’s suggestion for us today as we begin Advent is: “Be vigilant at all times and pray…” Is there a better formula we can apply to this season to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth or the coming of Christ at the end of our lives or at the end of time? I like decorations and lights and parties and Christmas cards and gifts, but to prepare ourselves for what this season of the year is all about, noting will do the job better than prayer and good works. Let us not say like the woman in the joke, ‘I don’t have time for Jesus’.
You might pray the rosary or mediate on the Scripture readings for each day even if you don’t have time to come for daily Mass. You can spend meaningfully an hour during our First Friday adoration. Make good confession. Be part of our Bible study group. You can help at the food pantry. Be a volunteer at our school or in our local community. There’s no end of other good works anyone can find to do if they are interested.
And now is the time to do it. There is a poem entitled Today:
I shall do much in the years to come, but what have I done today?
I shall give out gold in princely sum, but what did I give today?
I shall lift the heart and dry the tear, I shall plant a hope in the place of fear, I shall speak with words of love and cheer, but what have I done today?
I shall be so kind in the after while, but what have I been today?
I shall bring to each lonely life a smile, but what have I brought today?
I shall give to truth a grander birth, and to steadfast faith a deeper worth, I shall feed the hungering souls of earth, but whom have I fed today?
Have a faith – filled blessed Advent