Many people seem to be searching for the secret to happiness, especially during the holiday season.
Advent invites us, welcomes us, to reflect on the coming of Jesus:
Jesus came to us centuries ago in Bethlehem of Judea;
He comes to us now sacramentally; and
He will come again in glory.
In addition to liturgies, how might we celebrate Advent?
Some families create an advent wreath with four candles and light one candle at the dinner table during the first week, two candles during the second week, and so on. And they pray for the coming of the Messiah into their own lives.
Other families make a Jesse Tree to re-experience the story of our salvation as told in the Hebrew Bible. And still others might set up a Nativity scene, and invite family members to take turns telling the meaning of Christmas at the family dinner table.
These are but a few family customs that can help keep alive the meaning of Advent. And in the larger parish family, we might engage in volunteer service activities.
The Gospels challenge us to always “be alert” and “watchful” for the Lord’s coming; always living a life worthy of our calling as sons and daughters of God. The Advent season is about “waiting.”
We wait on line to purchase an item. We wait in an office to see a doctor. Yes, we do a lot of waiting. And so too did folks in Scripture. But theirs was a different kind of waiting. They often waited for the Messiah to rescue them.
We, too, often pray to God to rescue us from a crisis of one kind or another. We beg God to suddenly appear and make things right for us. And yet God can seem silent, hidden from our eyes. But is God silent? Is God hidden?
We profess that God is indeed in our midst.
In nature, in a sunrise and a sunset, a landscape and a waterscape, in people and in our beloved pets.
God is with us, as we ache with all sorts of growing pains, and as we groan in prayer during times of crisis, e.g., a life threatening illness or a broken relationship or a job loss.
He is especially within the Word proclaimed; and the sacraments.
And so, we wait and sing, “Oh Come, Emmanuel” - God-with-us.
Let us pray this Advent season that the Spirit of God will re-energize us to become better instruments of faith in God, of hope in eternal life, and of love of one another; better channels of forgiveness, compassion, truth and fairness; better companions in hospitality, service and responsibility.