Joy to the Whirl!

We just passed the Third Sunday of Advent so there are very few days left before Christmas. This is where we really begin to get nervous. Will I finish getting ready for Christmas on time? It’s just one big holiday whirl. PAUSE! Take a little breath. If only we were as worried about our spiritual preparation, but most of our stress is on presents, decorations, and dress. We need to take a moment to see how God has been preparing. Have you noticed in the liturgical readings how calm and gentle and patient God is? Read them again for these three Sundays and catch all the tenderness and mercy, of the Shepherd-God who gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them, of the many promises of peace, of forgiveness. I waited, waited for the Lord and he stooped down… Those words remind us of the many heartwarming military reunions we see on the media. And, waiting also involves alertness. When we were kids awaiting Santa’s arrival, our parents hoped we would fall asleep. But, awaiting God, we need to be alert. Usually, when we await God, it is in prayer and, all too often, we aren’t so alert. We get sleepy and distracted. Not to worry: these are normal, human reactions to our busy, complex, pulled-in-many-directions days. Feeling these things doesn’t automatically mean that we aren’t alert. The “alert” we are speaking of here is the state of our soul. This alertness is our spirit looking for God, looking toward his promised coming. So don’t worry much about the sleepy distraction you may feel. It is to be expected and accepted as natural, but try to pay attention to what God means by Christmas. He is sending his Son to us. Why? Because God loves us and he wants to make us happy. He comes in the most charming and beautiful way: as an innocent Child. In the Christmas Season, God only asks that we acknowledge his Gift. And, as we would do with any child, God wants us to gather up this Holy Child in our arms, that his gentle love may be ours.

Let us join with our loving God in crying out: Joy to the Whirl!

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Advent Feeding Frenzy

Black Friday is almost over, thank God. The day is little more than a commercial feeding frenzy. And unfortunately it is strategically placed to follow on the tail of one of our most cherished family feasts: Thanksgiving. So, don’t spend any extra time enjoying the company of those you love. No, run out at the crack of dawn to buy stuff to show how much you love them.

Well, this Sunday we begin a very quiet liturgical “feeding frenzy.”  For four weeks we are invited to reflect on God’s greatest gift. Oh, we spend so little time digesting this most delectable fare. We surround ourselves with pretty pictures of the angels, shepherds, sheep, mother and child, but are these images imprinted on our soul? I mean: are they real, important, and personal to us?

Am I there in quiet prayer when God’s messenger surprises a humble young woman with a request? Will she relinquish her plans and cooperate in the great mystery of God? Would I try to convince her to think twice about saying “yes”?

And what about poor Joseph? He is a hardworking, pious, just man awaiting the time when he can take that same young woman home as his wife. She will return from visiting her cousin looking very pregnant. What does that mean? Should he denounce her? What of his plans?

Many other characters appear in these next four weeks. Yes, we’ve heard their stories many times so we’ll be tempted to indulge in distraction when we recognize what is coming up in the readings. Here’s a thought: pick up the Good Book on your own (even as it is parceled out in the Sunday readings in a missal) and give a read. Let some thought stay with you and go over it a few times during the week. God is giving us a peek at the Gift he picked for us. Go ahead, it’s OK to check it out.