Sunday, December 13, 2015

Behold, He Comes

“If you ask most people what December is about, they are likely to say, “Getting ready for Christmas.”  But go one step further and ask what this means.  They will mention buying presents, preparing for guests, or visiting family for the holidays.  If you say, “What about celebrating the mystery of the birth of the Son of God?” they will eye you suspiciously and with a tinge of embarrassment say, “Of course.  That too.”  It was not always this way.
Older people can remember when there was real excitement.  As children, we fasted from candy and made little sacrifices for the Christ Child.  We saved what little we had to buy presents but also to give something to the poor or to the Church.  And we were excited.  We all knew of course that Christ was born long ago, but somehow this remembrance made it seem that He was coming again to us.”
            -- Behold, He Comes, Meditations on the Incarnation, by Benedict Groeschel, CFR

I like Fr. Benedict Groeschel’s Advent meditations (and I make sure there are always copies in the adoration chapel).  He published them in 2001, and most years I glance at them during Advent as I feel drawn, but this year is different:  I’ve been faithful in reading them each day, and I’ve found much delight and peace in his words, like those quoted above.
This entire Advent season has had a different feel for me.  I’ve been very busy, from traveling to Arizona at its start to extensive gift buying to a number of meetings --- with friends of old and new.  My tree isn’t up yet, and my cleaning lady joked that I’d better get it up soon, or she’ll return and demand I drag the plastic tree parts from the basement and she’ll put it up for me --- and she said it in that half serious, half “or else” tone.  And we laughed.
My living room is littered --- no, delightfully covered --- with wrapping papers, unwrapped gifts, and (thankfully) some piles of gifts ready for delivery.  Christmas cards?  Well, I’ve bought them, but they too are on my to-do list.  The Advent wreath and four candles?  They remain unlit in the box, as are the lights I usually string outside.  But this Third Sunday of Advent, all those things which I do value will have to wait, as today begins a series of Christmas gatherings with friends this week.
I’m not the only one running late with some Christmas preparations this year, and I chatted with my neighbor outside yesterday (in this unusually warm December weather) as he strung Christmas lights around the maple tree in his front yard --- and I fed his dog, Ritzy, some bones to quiet his “Christmas anxieties.”
I’ve chatted with some friends (and my cleaning lady) who talk like I should feel anxious for not being further along in Christmas preparations, but I think Fr. Groeschel’s words better describe how I am feeling this Advent.  I am not busy “getting ready for Christmas” in the secular sense, but in excitement preparing “for His coming again.”  All I’ve been doing thus far in preparation, a very busy time, feels to me as if I am not alone.  I often feel Jesus’ presence, like together we’re shopping, meeting neighbors, and spreading the joy of His coming.  Wrapping presents could be tedious, but I feel joy as I listen to Christmas music while I measure and cut and tape, and think “yes, this will be a good gift for that person.”
Sometimes, along the way, I’m recalling Christmases past, events and people I miss, and last year’s comforting a friend in the hospital, and even the woes of this year: the caregivers and friends who are worried about their loved one’s illnesses --- or death (please pray for Ed, who died yesterday).  But even these sad thoughts this year do not cause me any anxiety.  They seem to fit in with my TOTAL preparations for Advent:  He is coming.  The good things, the bad things, the things I’ve been busy with, the things I still need to do --- all these, they’re all just things.  He, however, is the REAL thing.  He’s with me in my preparations for His coming; He’s with me (and my friends) in our sorrows and worries.  And I know, I have a great peace and joy, that all will be well.
Silent night,
Holy night.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Behold, He comes.

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