Second Sunday of Advent (A) (12.8.2013)

The point is that the preparations for what we have turned Christmas into bring so much stress that we forget what Christmas really is. Yes, we all know we want to keep Christ in Christmas, but the steps needed to summon up what we think are the necessary feelings and emotions have overshadowed the meaning of the celebration. The prescribed Christmas feelings of love, joy and peace cannot flow from the solid month of stress which is December in the United States. So, what are we to do? Well, that is precisely what Advent season is all about. We are to prepare for the celebration of God’s presence as one of us[1].

What I have found and I know that I have mentioned this to people many times, is that God cannot be outdone in generosity, not just in generosity with our money, but in generosity with our time. Here’s a wonderful Divine paradox: The busier we are, the more time we need to set aside for the Lord. The more time we set aside for the Lord, then the better our priorities are accomplished. What are we to do? We have to set aside more time than we normally spend in prayer.

John the Baptist came to help people get their priorities straight to prepare for the celebration of the Messiah among them. He told them to reform their lives, repent, not to presume that just because they were sons of Abraham that they will be saved, but instead to take action and produce the fruit of their conversions.

There are more important things to do then make cookies and buy presents. Yes, these things need to be accomplished, but there are more important things to do. We have to read the Christmas sections of Isaiah[2]. We have to meditate on the wonders of the events leading up to the first Christmas, the annunciation to a young girl that her union with God was so complete that God had chosen her to become a human being through her. Her immediate response was to bring the joy and charity of God’s coming presence to an elderly cousin who needed help as her child was coming. We have to meditate on the first Christmas, when a stinky barn became the first receiving hall for the King of Kings and townspeople passed by unnoticing while shepherds heard the announcement from angels. A good meditation is to put ourselves in the various roles of the Christmas miracle. What if I were Mary or Joseph or Elizabeth or an innkeeper or a townsmen or a shepherd? Am I open enough to the spiritual to hear Angels announcing Gloria? Are my eyes open enough to the spiritual to see a star? Will I ever be that wise or will I continually walk by Bethlehem with its hidden new born treasure?

Among the numerous Christmas stories and poems is the wonderful folktale of Bilfina:

Bilfina, the Housewife, scrubbing her pane
Saw three old sages ride down the lane,
Saw three gray travelers pass her door—
Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior.

 “Where journey you, sirs?” she asked of them.
Balthazar answered, “To Bethlehem,
For we have news of a marvelous thing,
Born in a stable is Christ the King.”

 “Give Him my welcome!”
Then Gaspar smiled,
“Come with us, mistress, to greet the child.”

 “Oh, happily, happily would I fare,
Were my dusting through and I’d polished the stair.”
Old Melchior leaned on his saddle horn,
 “Then send but a gift to the small Newborn.’

“Oh, gladly, gladly, I’d send him one,
Were the hearthstone swept
and my weaving done.

As soon as I’ve baked my bread,
I’ll fetch him a pillow for his head,
And a coverlet too,” Bilfina said.

“When the rooms are aired and the linen dry,
I’ll look at the Babe,”
But the three rode by.

She worked for a day, and a night and a day,
Then gifts in her hands, took up her way.
But she never found where the Christ child lay.

And she still wanders at Christmastide,
Houseless whose house was all her pride.

Whose heart was tardy, whose gifts were late;
Wanders and knocks at every gate.
Crying, “Good people, the bells begin!
Put off your toiling and let love in.”

Put off your toiling and let love in. The preparation for Christmas should not be the time of stress that we have allowed society to change it into. Our preparations for Christmas should be a time of prayer. The gift buying and giving and receiving should not be a matter of amassing possessions or of flattery, but a sign of the life giving sacrificial love that came to the world when the one who would be crucified was born.

Yes, proper celebrations take time and hard work. But Mary of Bethany had the better part. She stopped to enjoy the presence of the Lord while her sister, Martha, busied herself about[3]. We can do both, enjoy the presence of the Lord and prepare well for the celebration if we unite both! Our preparations must flow from our prayers to God. Then the Lord will make Christmas happen ■

[1] Second Sunday of Advent A, December 8, 2013. Readings I: Isaiah 11:1-10; Responsorial Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12
[2] The beginning of chapters 9 & 11
[3] Luke 10:38-42. 

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris