Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
So as to be more available to the Advent graces of the Eucharistic liturgy for today, we might begin by imagining a large crowd of people approaching a strangely dressed man who is standing on the river bank shining a light beyond himself. He points the crowd towards the direction to which the light is pointing. He waves them past him, but they stop and want to know who he is. He tells them to keep watching hopefully and indicates that he himself is waiting joyfully for the true light to appear. The light he holds is a kind of directional signal; the true light is the direction.
Today is “Rejoice Sunday” and we are encouraged to ask for the spirit of joy that our salvation is not only close at hand, but is faithfully present. That for which we wait this Advent is our deeper reception of this gift, wrapped in flesh for us and all.
When opening our “greeting” cards, we enjoy reading the names of the senders and perhaps their little personal greetings. We might pray profitably with the little verses printed carefully on the cards. We can pray with any of those religious or scriptural verses as if God is the sender and meant explicitly for each of us. Some people tape the cards to their mantels or doorways so that others might see them and enjoy them. This Advent we might receive these cards not so much as “greeting” but “meaning” cards. We need help to pray these partyful, shoppingfuldays of festive preparation.
As John was a kind of “greeting” card, announcing that something greater was soon to arrive, so these little paper messages can speak to our spirits that the Savior has come and is still coming.
A man came to my office today and during our conference asked me
in great simplicity, “Now tell me just what is Advent all about.”
There may seem to be a confusion. Advent means a “coming” and yet we have been offered and have received what seems to be coming. We hear in today’s First Reading a joyful song sung by a prophet who realizes that he has been blest greatly and is to be a great blessing to those whose lives are not experienced as blessings just yet.
The Gospel today has two parts, but a distinct unity. The first two verses are from the Prologue which comprise the first nineteen verses. As with a musical play, a prologue gives little subtle introductions to what will be played out later. In John the Evangelist’s Prologue, John the Baptist is introduced as a significant person, but not the Christ. The remainder of today’s reading is the first action of John’s Gospel. What was hinted at or introduced in the Prologue then gets played out as the first act of the Gospel. So this theme must have been very important to the Evangelist and the early Christian community.
In the years after the first three accounts of the life of Jesus were written, certain beliefs and sects arose contrary to the early Christian traditions. One of these was that Jesus was not the Christ, the Messiah, but rather John the Baptist. So our early Jewish fore parents are seen as going out to ask the major question and in the Prologue and the first act, there is no sublty, John the Evangelist says it clearly twice and will say it many times throughout his Gospel. John consistently announces that Jesus is the son of God and has been sent as the prime revelation of God’s love.
I still haven’t written here what I shared with the fellow in my office. Are you at all aware of waiting or wishing I’d get to the point? Good! Advent is more than a liturgical season; it is the Christian life-style. Advent is similar to a love relationship. A husband and wife do not say to each other upon their being married, “Well, remember this day and all we’ve said to one another so we don’t have to say these loving things again.” There is love and more will be shared if there is the openness to it. Ah there’s the rub, none of us can stay open for all the expressions, signs, gestures and even words of that kind of love. Sometimes people in love have to sit down together, go away for a while, “get in touch”, or slow down to catch up with each other. There is a waiting for something which is already there, already expressed, but not only partially received.
The prophet and the Baptist are announcing in today’s readings that they are sent again to have us “get in touch”, go away for a while and slow down enough to receive more fully that which has been and always will be offered, Jesus.
Are you still waiting for the complete answer? Advent is similar
to what has been going on in this Reflection and what went on in my office.
I have written several things explaining Advent; it has been shared.
It needs more I am sure, but perhaps the need for more is on the part of
the reader. The original “Sender” said enough, but we the limited
“readers”, believers, want more. Advent is the days we spend trying
to hear more clearly, read more deeply and receive more openly what has
already been offered. Jesus is just too much for an all-at-once day,
week, month, year or life. So Advent? What is it all about?
Keep reading with joy!
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