And so this is Advent. A new Christian year has begun. What can we hope that this first season of the liturgical year will be for us, together with the season of Christmas? I know what it can be:
It can be a time of remembrance. Joyful remembrance of the prophetic promise that one day, God would be God-with-us, truly with us, so that we would never be alone again in all the things we must go through in a human life. He would be there for us.
Remembrance of the fact that in the conception and birth of Jesus, that promise was fulfilled, at least insofar as the Incarnation, the reality of God-with-us, was begun. Jesus’ Incarnation, his fulfilment of the promise of Emmanuel, God-with-us, would not be complete until he had lived the human condition to its bitterest end: violent torture and death. But it was nonetheless begun, and we can rejoice in his birth as the beginning of his Incarnation because we know the rest of the story. We know that he achieved the fullness of Incarnation because he was with us in our human condition to the end. So that now, we know him to be truly with us.
We know it, in principle, but the problem is, we forget it, especially in times when it’s of little significance to us because all is well, and we don’t feel particularly alone, we don’t feel the need for him to be with us.
Hence the importance of Advent and Christmas as a time of remembrance. Remembrance leads to rekindled hope. Perhaps He hasn’t been as close to me, as present to me in the past year as He could have been, as I wish He had been. I find myself hoping anew that this year, it will be different, that He will be more present to me than He has been until now, or at least as present as He has already been to me. Maybe Paul is right. Maybe salvation really is “nearer to me now than when I first became a believer”. What a wonderful hope. Transfiguration is still possible. Abiding bright, joyful hope, springing from the conviction that He is with me, is still possible.
Hope leads to prayer. “Be with me, stay with me Jesus, more than before, more than ever. Be with me. Be God-with-us, for me, for us all. Be in me more than myself, that I might live and breathe again. That by my abiding awareness of your presence to me, by the serenity which this awareness brings, I might be a light shining for others, guiding them to you.”
By the grace of God, may this year’s Advent and Christmas seasons be all of the above for each one of us: remembrance of the promise of Emmanuel, remembrance of the fulfilment of the promise in the conception and birth of Jesus, rekindled hope for his renewed, enhanced presence to us in the future, and prayer for that presence that we all need so badly. God bless our Advent and Christmas seasons.
. . . . . . .
We have a new ministry in the parish that will be present to our celebrations this weekend. They are called “Ave Maria Gardens”. With the help of others, they fabricate lovely small floral arrangements which they then take to shut-ins, whether they be in their own homes or in institutions. I leave it to them to say more about themselves when the occasion will present itself. Let us welcome with delight this new ministry to our parish, yet another ministry of mercy.