Yesterday, I shared this reflection at my Lay Dominican meeting. After a few tweaks, I thought I’d share it here, too!
In the Gospel passage for this weekend, we hear Jesus telling us to be watchful, to keep our eyes open. Jesus issues this directive many times throughout the Gospels. It is very clear that Jesus is wanting us to be alert everyday. But if you are anything like me, you find yourself distracted more than alert. While many people are wondering if they will be ready for Christmas, I’m thinking I’m not even ready for Advent!
In recent months I have found myself very distracted by some less than pleasant obligations. Sometimes I begin a project or commit to something that I think is going to be a lot of fun and spiritually fulfilling. It doesn’t always work out that way. When a ministry opportunity turns into an obligation and a headache, then distraction is the rule of the day. Heaven knows with the current state of affairs in our nation, there are many sources of distraction and many causes for headaches. Why do I seem to add my own?
Our psalm for this Sunday reflects a feeling that I have had for quite some time. Psalm 80 says, “Lord make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved.” This is a prayer as we plead with God to intervene in a very broken world. Every age in history has its share of brokenness and chaos. We feel like 2017 has got to be the worst it’s ever been, and we may find ourselves hoping that Jesus will come very soon and get us out of this mess! Save me from my headaches, my annoying obligations, my distractions. There are days when I want Christ to come down from heaven NOW. But then I realize…He already has! My distractions get the best of me when I do not turn to God, when I do choose not to see His face. Christ is already here, and if I’m not paying attention to that, how can I lead others to Him? I imagine that God’s people had similar thoughts thousands of years ago, when the prophet Isaiah said, “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for…Behold, You are angry, and we are sinful.”
Unfortunately not everyone feels that we are sinful these days. By attempting to redefine what is right and normal and acceptable, our culture seems to be trying to erase sin from the dictionary. I’m sure many people are not alert to the coming of the Master, because they feel they don’t need a Master. Religious teachings are old-fashioned. Doctrine is oppressive. Freedom, they say, is found in doing whatever you want to do.
We who profess Jesus as Lord need to be set apart, yet give strong loving witness to the reality of who Jesus is. This is more than having a button that says “Jesus is the reason for the season.” We must say, “Jesus is the reason for everything!” The One True God loves us so much that He became incarnate in the world so that we would know the Father. Not a myth, but a real relationship with a real loving God. And it is in this relationship that our hearts will find true peace. Distractions will be gone, because we will be focused on Him. When the news gets ugly, I want Jesus to come back right now, but then I think about those who do not know Him yet, or worse, those who have rejected Him. I think the reason Jesus delays is because we have more preaching to do. We have more witness to share. We need to be ready for the Second Coming of the Lord, but we also need to help other people recognize His first coming as an innocent Baby. A way to prepare, to “do Advent,” is to be willfully engaged in the lives of people around us and to share the source of our joy…the Good News.
In his book Simple Truths, Venerable Fulton Sheen says this,
“The Christmas message is not that peace will come automatically, because Christ is born in Bethlehem; that birth in Bethlehem was the prelude to his birth in our hearts by grace and faith and love. Peace belongs only to those who will to have it. If there is no peace in the world today, it is not because Christ did not come; it is because we did not let him in.”
One of my friends, Annie, recently posted about listening to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving. I was surprised; not sure why. I am a bit anxious for Christmas songs too, but I generally try to wait until Gaudete Sunday when Bruce & I usually decorate. But she loves the sounds of the season, and made a very good point in a very clever hashtag: #alloflifeisadvent
Indeed…all of life. Every. Single. Day. We should be preparing for Christ now, and later today, and tomorrow. By better preparing for Him, we will be able to recognize Him, and lead others to Him.
Have a blessed Advent!