Today begins the season of Advent for Christians. The word itself is composed of the verb to come and the preposition meaning to. The prophet Isaiah speaks in the first reading for liturgy of his vision of all nations streaming toward the mountain of the Lord (IS 2:1-5) to be instructed in God’s ways and to learn to walk on God’s paths, beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, never again to train for war. In all that follows, we are urged to wake up in order to be ready to join in that day when God’s kingdom will appear. St. Paul tells us that we know what time it is; we know the need to wake up and “throw off the works of darkness,” conducting ourselves “properly as in the day.” (ROM 13:11-14) Matthew isn’t so sure about our awareness. He says that we don’t know the day that the Lord will come. “Therefore”, he says, “stay awake!”(MT 24:37-44)
To us, Advent is the time of waiting – of coming toward Christmas. We know when it’s coming; we’ve been told for awhile now how many shopping days remain before it arrives and millions of people have been very busy over the past few days feverishly preparing by spending billions, yes billions, of dollars to be ready for the big event. I apologize if I seem jaded about it all, but it becomes clearer and clearer to me as I age that the best gifts for Christmas are those of the heart, not the pocketbook. While it is true that the giving of material gifts to our loved ones can be a precious moment of exchange and meaning, it seems necessary as well to find a balance in our preparation. It is, after all, the Christ event, the Incarnation, that is the reason for all our preparation.
Today as I reflect on the readings and the world in which we now live, the questions that arise for me are the following. What do I hope we are “coming to” personally and corporately in our home, our country, our Church and our world? What am I doing to move toward the reign of God that Jesus came to reveal? Am I awake to what is really happening? Am I awake to what I am really contributing – or not? How best can I prepare for Christmas, internally and externally? Am I honestly ready for my daily prayer to be, “Come, Lord Jesus!” so that I will recognize and truly celebrate the gifts of Christmas when it dawns?
May our preparation be serious and joyful in the knowledge of what is possible for us – inside and out.