To go from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Day brings us full circle when trying to figure out how we want to approach this time of year again. There’s a lot to do between now and New Year’s in our social and cultural calendars. This indeed is the busiest time of year. To go from Christ the King to the First Sunday of Advent brings us full circle when trying to figure out how we want to approach this time of year again in our religious and faith lives.
Both journeys demand of us an awful lot of planning, thought, prayer and energy to try and get them right. We look over our past Christmases and remember things we did or didn’t do. Things we wanted to get done and things that might no longer hold pride of place in our family traditions. Even though we know we need to be prepared, we may never be totally ready when the time comes. Family
arrives, friends drop by, forgotten things needed at the super market (which of course, will close Christmas eve at noon–)
Ready or not here it comes.
Advent is like that too. We might have the best intentions: doing the readings and the daily prayers sent out by the parish; the promise of going to mass or Adoration at least one extra time per week; to go through the closet and get out those extra coats for “Coats for kids.” To not avert my eyes when I go by the red bucket and make sure this year, when giving to the food bank, we are not just
getting rid of the cans off the shelf with an overdue expiration date.
We all have ways that we approached our social and faith based adventures and obligations last year. Doing something fantastic and different in our social lives and in our faith life this year is perhaps the best way to give meaning to both. All three readings offer us alternatives to doing things the way they have always been done. If we are looking for ways to add to our traditions and activities, the ones most in line with change are the alternatives offered by Isaiah, Paul and by Jesus himself.
Isaiah says “Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, let us walk in his paths, let us come together.” A new invitation to get going: let us notice the new people and events breaking into our lives. Paul writes: “The time has come, the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon. Let us be awake so that the light is not going to find us asleep.” A new invitation to rest: Maybe we find ourselves too tired to move ahead with our Advent, Christmas and New Year’s plans. Maybe that voice we hear crying in the wilderness continues to say “Prepare the way of the Lord.” And yet also says “Let’s make things simple this year. It would be nice if we had just a little more meaning in this time of year.”
Jesus says: be prepared, great things are going to happen, get ready, get ready! A new invitation to peace: real peace, his peace, not just in our time and place. Peace for all humanity. These three invitations, alternatives, not only ask us to sit down and eat and drink, to celebrate the past and the present; we are urged by Isaiah, Paul and Jesus to celebrate Advent and Christmas and the year ahead in a way that is directed toward change in our lives.
We are told to walk to the mountain of the Lord, to grow in goodness and community, and to live in Peace. The call of all three readings makes us pilgrims, forming a people who are on the move. Not settled in the past of this world, nor its present. We are being asked to look forward to the coming of the Lord. Celebrating the joy and chaos in this season, and grasping a new way to look at our faith life… our experience tells us it is not one or the other. If we can make it happen, we will see that we are being called ahead… or even to the middle which is also a great place to be… For now…