Sunday, December 2, 2012

Great Expectations

“The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” (Jeremiah 33:14)

Advent is a season of great expectations.  From the moment Thanksgiving ends, sometimes sooner, we start making all these grand plans for Christmas that we cannot possibly accomplish. Of course, these plans are material or secular and will not lead us any closer to Christ.  This is why we begin a spiritual journey today to concentrate on what is truly important during this blessed season. Yesterday, I read a quote from priest I befriended on Facebook that read: "Our beloved Church "shocks" us with the scandal of the color violet while the rest of the world clothes itself in red and gold so that, on the final day, we will not be shocked to find ourselves dressed in something less glorious than God's own light and love." We spend way too much time worried about the material aspects of this season to the point that it stresses most people out. I see so many frustrated faces during what should be the most joyous time of year.  The “hustle and bustle” of this season should bring joy and not stress. 

So how should we approach this season of Advent?  I was exchanging texts with a priest friend of mine yesterday morning and he sent me another great quote:  “If we do not pray with the graces which Advent offers in the experiences of emptiness, then, I am afraid, Christmas will be a celebration of disappointing emptiness."  And that's why so many people stress out during these holy days.  Their eyes are fixed on what is not important.  Today we have the opportunity to empty our hearts of all things that are not of Christ; to fix our eyes on him and not get distracted by all the secular trappings of this season. Look at our altar.  All you see is a purple cloth on the altar and pulpit and then the Advent wreath. That's it!  We begin this journey towards Christmas with our altar reflecting where our hearts should be at: preparing to be filled by Christ. Slowly but surely the Advent wreath will get brighter and the altar will get more festive as we approach the coming of our Lord.  But we must begin with empty hearts, humble hearts, contrite hearts that will be receptive to the light of Christ.  If our hearts are already filled with unnecessary distractions then we will feel emptiness this Christmas like a child that didn't get everything he wrote on his list to Santa or The Three Kings.

The days are coming, Jeremiah reminds us, when God will fulfill his promise to us and send us a right and just man. He is Christ the Lord!  He calls us to be right and just as well.  He also tells us in today's gospel that when he comes again to "stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand (Luke 21:28)."  So with empty hearts we approach this altar as we implore our God to fill our hearts with the joy of this season. May our eyes be fixed on what is essential: the coming of the Christ child. Only then will we be able to truly rejoice this Christmas and celebrate with hearts full of light and love.