Advent is a call to open our lives more fully to the coming of the Lord
The commercialization of Christmas can become a terrible distraction for those who really desire to celebrate Christmas correctly.The Advent season gives us a fresh opportunity to look at our lives and deepen our relationship with the Lord Jesus who has come already in humility and will come again in glory. "No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him" (Isaiah 64: 4).
Since we are about to celebrate Christmas, we would suppose that the new liturgical year would begin chronologically with a reflection on the Incarnation. However, that is not the case. The reason why the liturgical year ends and begins with the same theme is clear: if we have already embraced Jesus in his first coming, we will have no fear of his glorious return.
It is also interesting to note that the new liturgical year begins with a penitential season; i.e. the season of Advent. The priest and deacon now use purple colored vestments. As the world around us prepares for Christmas with an ever increasing emphasis on material things, the Church directs our gaze toward the spiritual.
The liturgical calendar begins differently from the secular calendar precisely because the Church, while in the world, is not of the world. Advent is a penitential season because Christmas is about our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not about external celebrations.
"God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1: 9).
Advent, as a penitential season, prepares us to celebrate the anniversary of the Lord's first coming as the incarnate God of love. As a penitential time, Advent helps us to examine the condition of our soul which is an abode of the Lord's presence through sanctifying grace. Advent helps us prepare for the Lord's second coming as judge which takes place first at death and then again at the end of the world. If we are already living out our discipleship with Jesus, we will be ready for his second coming.
"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come" (Mark 13: 33).
As disciples of the Lord we have so many ways to become distracted and lose our focus. The commercialization of Christmas can become a terrible distraction for those who really desire to celebrate Christmas correctly. We can give in to the temptations of materialism. We can lose the intensity of our spiritual life. We can become spiritually lazy by being satisfied with being "good people" rather than striving for sanctity.
Advent is a time to wake up. "May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping" (Mark 13: 36).
Most of the world did not notice Jesus' first coming. We need to stay awake and notice how he comes to us each day. The daily circumstances of our lives provide so many opportunities for us to serve one another.
Once upon a time, there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn't a scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he did not believe in the mystery of the Incarnation.
"I am truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. "But I simply cannot understand this claim that God became man. It doesn't make any sense to me." On Christmas Eve, his wife and children went to church. He declined to accompany them. "I'd feel like a hypocrite," he explained. "I'd rather stay at home. But I will wait up for you."
Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. "If we must have Christmas," he thought, "It's nice to have a white one." He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window.
When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm, and in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his window.
"I cannot let these poor creatures lie there and freeze," he thought. "But how can I help them?" Then he remembered the barn where the children's pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter. He put on his coat and boots, and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. "Food will bring them in," he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn.
To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shoeing them in the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction--except into the warm, lighted barn. "They find me a strange and terrifying creature," he said to himself. "And I cannot seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety..."
Just at that moment, the church bells began to ring. He stood silently for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. "Now I do understand," he whispered. "Now I know why you had to do it."
The Advent season gives us a fresh opportunity to look at our lives and deepen our relationship with the Lord Jesus who has come already in humility and will come again in glory. "No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him" (Isaiah 64: 4).
Visit Father James on the web at http://www.fatherjames.org and purchase his new book Get Serious! A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. Click here for the audio podcast of this homily.
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.
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