“Shout for joy!
The Lord is in your midst
A mighty savior!”
– Zephaniah 3:14-18
By Steve DeLaney, Assistant Director of Evangelization
Advent: The Season
We begin this Sunday a new liturgical year with the season of Advent. The term comes from the Latin word adventus which means “to come, to arrive.” The word was adopted by the early Christian community to refer to the weeks before the celebration of Christmas. In the first centuries of the Church Advent was celebrated in a variety of ways before settling into the form we know today – the four Sundays before Christmas.
During Advent, we are invited into the spiritual practice of waiting and hope. We remember the hope and expectation that surrounded the birth of Jesus over 2000 years ago. We long to see the incarnate Christ who is present in our lives today, in the person who works down the hall from us, the loved one who calls our phones, and the stranger who walks our streets. And we wait in hope for the coming of Christ again, for that great gathering in the heart of God that will come when all waiting is done.
This year we will offer some insights and reflections for the Advent season in our bulletin and on our website. We will include poems, art, and writings from saints and others in the Christian tradition. It is a sprinkling of gifts, wisdom from our faith thrown like seed. We hope there will be something that finds you and invites a deeper reflection. Take what is useful to you. Let these four weeks be a gift – an early Christmas present – a time in which we allow God to open our eyes and hearts to how He longs to enter our lives.
Week One – Expectation
My younger son, Ben, was never a great sleeper. He didn’t nap well, and he loved to stay up late. He was gifted (I use that word cautiously) with an endurance to stay awake and to outlast any adult that was trying to get him to go to bed early. He was about two years old when he figured out that he could climb out of his crib. This brought my wife and I to edge of crisis. The boy would get up forty or fifty times a night before he would finally succumb to sleep.
One evening, when my wife was out, and Ben was on his twenty seventh excursion from his crib to see what I was doing, I lost it. I marched him upstairs, put him in his crib, and with all of my fatherly authority yelled at him, “If you get out of that bed one more time, you are going to be in big trouble!” And without missing a beat, he hopped up onto his feet, stared me in the eye, and yelled back, “I WANT BIG TROUBLE!”
And so he won. I started to laugh, because I knew my threat was totally empty. I had no “big trouble” to deliver at all. But Ben approached me full of expectation. He expected me to mean what I said. And he was prepared for my “big trouble” – as long as he could stay up!
In the Gospel this week, Jesus tries to shock his disciples into living lives of expectation. Don’t give in to exhaustion, don’t get drunk, don’t forget that God has made this great promise to you! Jesus asks us to be vigilant at all times – not because God is waiting above us to pounce, but because Jesus knew that what happens to us is that we stop expecting. We stop expecting that anything can change. We stop expecting our words to really mean what we say. We stop expecting that God really enters our world, really comes to us. We forget. We grow tired. We expect nothing.
Advent is the time to foster expectation. To look, to be vigilant, to keep our eyes open. One gift that young children bring to us is that they expect the world to love them. My son was full of expectation. He trusted that I had something to give (even if it was trouble!). May we enter this season trusting in the gift that our loving God comes to bring.
A Psalm of Longing by Edward Hays
My spirit hungers for your love,
O Divine Maker of hearts,
for the taste of your joy
and the aroma of your peace.
May this time of prayer
fill me with the whisper of your presence
and let me feel the touch
of your hand upon my heart.
How I long for the depths of your love,
to know your quiet constancy,
the feast of your friendship
that feeds me without end.
Oh, how my soul longs for you.
You elude all names we give you
and dwell beyond the grasp of brilliant minds.
Your essence pulses within every atom
yet extends beyond the far frontiers of space,
unscanned by the strongest telescopes.
Awaken me to your presence
now, this moment,
in my heart.
First Coming by Madeleine L’Engle
He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.
He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.
He did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.
He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.
We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!
From a Pastoral Letter of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan (1538 – 1584)
Each year, as the Church recalls this mystery, she urges us to renew the memory of the great love God has shown us. This holy season teaches us that Christ’s coming was not only for the benefit of his contemporaries; his power has still to be communicated to us all.
The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence, he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace.
Rapture at Rio Arriba by Glen Strock
This lovely and funny painting of the rapture (the end time) offers an insight into one of Jesus’ teachings about expectation. He tells us that when he comes again, people will just be going about their day to day lives. Some will be ready, some will not. It is not the activities of our lives that decide if we see Christ, it is how open we are to him in the midst of those activities. Note the woman who is flying up to heaven who was making eggs and bacon. And the woman at the very top of the picture – she is looking up and smiling – as is she is the first in the group to see Christ face to face.