Nov 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Catholic liturgical year begins today. The rest of our society will begin celebrating the Christmas Season. And once they have exchanged gifts, they will take down their decorations and soon forget what has passed. If they look forward to anything, it will be New Years Day that they eagerly await. Growing up, this used to mean Santa Claus and reindeer, Rudolph and claymation movies, a snowman that comes back to life and promises to return someday, Christmas carols and candy canes. Usually mixed in with it there was a nativity scene and renditions of O Holy Night, Silent Night, and other songs of a religious nature. Houses were adorned with lights and Christmas scenes. Everyone wished each other Merry Christmas, even those who did not believe. Perhaps our society missed the most essential element of the coming celebration: Christmas is really Christ’s Mass, the Mass of Christ. Still, something of the wonder of this time was marked by the joy with which we kept the season, even if we had forgotten the reason. Today, it is Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays (this last one means Happy Holy Days, but don’t tell them. Let them keep saying it, maybe it’ll sink in).

I know we are an Easter people. And I love Holy Week and the Easter Vigil. But I have always been a Christmas Catholic. I love Christmas. I love Christmas Carols and not just the religious ones. Something about Frosty and Rudolph and the North Pole still makes me smile. Hidden in these things is a longing for the real Christmas. An expression of the best things about being human: the giving of gifts and singing of joyful songs. The problem with secular Christmas is not the feeling of joy, or the increase of generosity. It’s not even the stories of elves, flying reindeer or a gentle, kind and merry man whose belly jiggles when he laughs. Remember Santa Claus is another way of saying Saint Claus, short for Saint Nicholas. These stories capture something of the spirit of man towards his fellow men during these joyous days. We could do with a bit more rather than a bit less of this spirit. Still, like all big days, such as weddings and ordinations, births and baptisms, there is the necessity of preparation and the building excitement as the day approaches. If we give ourselves over the exterior trappings of this Christmas Season, we should give ourselves with even more abandon to our interior preparations to receive the Christ-Child in our souls.

This begins with remembering like Isaiah, that our God is our Father and Redeemer forever. It takes place by acknowledging that we have strayed and are in need of renewing the love and joy that is proper to Christianity in our hearts. We must plead with him in joyful anticipation for the coming of our Lord. “Rend the heavens and come down!” “Rouse your power,” O Lord, “and come to save us.” “Give us new life, and we will call upon your name.” “Let us see your face and we shall be saved.” We can apply these pleadings to three things: historically, Isaiah calls upon God to send the Messiah. And faith tells us that God has done so. We join our voices to this plea, begging the Lord to come again. And faith gives us the hope to believe that it will be. We also sing out to God, that his Son may come into our hearts now. That he may be born again in us. “Come now and save me, Lord. Let me see your face now. Rend my heart now and come into it.”

Jesus tells us to be watchful, to be alert and watch. We do not know when he will come. As we look forward to celebrating the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, we have preparations to make. Is there room in my heart for him? Is my soul adorned with the same care that I decorate my home? Will I be awake when he knocks on the door of my heart and begs to enter? Leave room for him. In all the other things that will happen this Christmas Season, the singing and decorating, the shopping and present wrapping, the family gatherings and daily doings, don’t let any of these things stay in your mind and heart without leaving room for the One whom our joy awaits. If you prefer to wait for the celebrations, to avoid listening to Christmas songs and decorating and all such things, you do well – if you are preparing to receive him and not merely refusing to participate in the joyfulness and generosity around you. I must confess, I will be unable to contain myself. I’ve already put up my tree. It is disguised as an Advent tree, with purple lights and purple ornaments but there is already a bit of Christmas in my heart. I will be unable to resist the allure of Christmas music. Soon, I will decorate my car with reindeer antlers and a Rudolph nose. But I shall not tire of Christmas, I think there should be more Christmas and more Christmas spirit in the world. In whatever way we keep this season, let there be prayer and thanksgiving to God, so that our lives be enriched in every way and may we share the riches of grace bestowed on us by God in Christ Jesus. May we be filled with the Christmas spirit and as we long for that most holy of days, may we prepare ourselves to receive our Lord and King.

No comments: