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By Hugh McNichol
Op/Ed

One thing that I have noticed in recent weeks is the increased secular rush to bring all of the merchandise to market for the Christmas season. Just 2 weeks ago, it was Halloween, and we were getting ready to revel with costumed children in pursuit of candy and other goodies in lieu of devilish pranks. We haven't even begun to cook the Thanksgiving turkey and the commercials are bombarding the airwaves with thoughts of Santa and his ever increasing bag of Christmas gifts. Perhaps it is a practical time for Catholics to step back and once again consider the true theological and sacramental significance of this upcoming liturgical season of Advent and then the celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas.

We need to place the understanding of God's appreciation of time into the correct perspective. God does not exist and plan His eternal life around the chronological order of calendar seasons and shopping holidays. God's time, is really a constant flow of all past, present and future realities in the here and now. Wow...what a mouthful. One of the most realistic things I suppose we might say about God's appreciation of time is simply this...God is! Now besides getting into an existential discussion about the metaphysics of chronological time verses sacred time, let's just say...all time is sacred. With this said, perhaps as Catholics we can take a deep breath and appreciate the sacredness of the time we have not only during the secular holidays, but the sacred sacramental time that God presents to us on a daily basis through our ever developing sense of an appreciation and understanding of His Sacred Time.

Shortly, we will be so concerned about preparations for the Christmas holiday season that we might really overlook the great season of joyful expectation we call Advent. We prepare not only during this time to celebrate the commemoration of the birth of the Messiah, we also anticipate the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time. We anticipate not only the birth at Christmas, but also our rebirth with all of creation at the end of chronological time and our rebirth is "sacred" time, namely eternal and sacred time with God our Creator. When we take a few moments to reflect on the "time" that we spend engaged in our everyday activities and responsibilities, perhaps we should realize there is a need to step back and take some "time" for an appreciation of the sacredness of our lives and activities as they are correctly determined in relationship with our Church, our Sacraments and ultimately with our God. Not only are we a Easter people, called to new life through a celebration of the Paschal mystery, we are an expectant and anticipatory people that really thirsts for the manifestation of the heavenly Kingdom and the new order that Jesus Christ manifests in His Incarnation.

Part of the difficulty in appreciating the Incarnation of Jesus is the fact that we selectively perceive chronological time as human creatures, and we fail to see God's constant vision of time as a constantly unfolding mystery that brings us into a deeper and deeper participation into His eternal life. The Incarnation of Jesus, that we so impatiently commemorate each year through our secular activities of gift purchasing and gift giving is really not just a commemoration of the calendar of Jesus earthly manifestation as a man over 2000 years ago, the Incarnation is really a constantly occurring event that took place with the Eternal Word becoming flesh, and continues mysteriously unfolding as we constantly pursue a sacramental and ecclesial understanding of the ramifications of this Divine Word among us.

The early Church used to believe that the return of Jesus in eschatological glory was imminent. They were prepared for the end of chronological time, and the invoked the prayer, MARANATHA, or Come Lord Jesus as their prayerful consolation to the anticipated coming of Jesus in glory. We as well should take some time and think about the awesome implications of what the preparations of Advent really mean for us as a Catholic anticipatory people as we prepare again to celebrate our chronological holiday seasons. My guess is simply this, if we as theologically aware Catholics begin to savor and appreciate God's understanding of time and eternity...the hustle and bustle of seasonal, secular activities that mark the observance of Christmas will lead us to a new understanding of what we are really celebrating in the Incarnation of Jesus. Let's step back and truly with anticipation and faith proclaim MARANATHA, or Come Lord Jesus as the rallying cry of a new manifestation of God's kingdom among us and a continuation of the unfolding mystery of Christ's Incarnation that continues to transform the world and manifest God's presence among all of us.

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