My Dear Friends,
Remember those Christmases when you were a child when you didn’t get the gift you wanted? You kept opening present after present looking for that one gift that you wanted above everything else. But alas, it was not under the tree. You smiled half-heartedly playing with the toys that you received but were disappointed because you had just spent all of December expecting something that never came. As adults, we still long for certain things. Sometimes it’s events. For example, many young people long for the day they meet Mr. or Mrs. Right or finish college. For parents, they may long for the day their kids finally graduate or get married. For local sports fans, we long for our Dolphins to win the Super Bowl (sigh). Most of these things may or may not happen, yet there is still a hope that drives us.
Advent is truly a season of hope. We long for something, someone!, to come into our lives. We long for the presence of the Messiah in our life even if we are distracted by all the noise of this time of year as I mentioned in last week’s bulletin. Yet we cling to the hope of a Savior who is announced by Isaiah in today’s first reading with some truly striking images: “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them (Isaiah 11:6).” Christ comes to restore order to creation. To eliminate hostility. To bring peace into our lives.
All of us long for many things. These longings and wishes are particularly present around this time of year. We long for happiness, peace, financial security, love, health, but unfortunately none of these things will magically appear under our tree on Christmas morning. The only thing we can be certain that we will receive this Christmas is the presence of our Lord. How we receive him is entirely up to us. We hear the voice of John the Baptist in today’s gospel telling us to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths, but the Lord isn’t going to force his way into our hearts on Christmas Day. We have to prepare a place for him. We have to clear a direct path, a highway without obstacles or tolls if you will, so that he can totally take over our hearts. And if we do prepare a place for him, he will be all that we need on that day. A heart overflowing with the love of Christ has no need for anything else because it has all that it needs and desires. This Advent season is a time of preparation, a time of filling in valleys and tearing down mountains to ensure that the Lord’s path to our hearts is straight and direct. When I was a child, I may not have found the present I wanted underneath the Christmas tree every year, but I did always find a little child lying in a manger. I know now what I didn’t know then: Christ is all we need this Christmas.
I would like to end this column by welcoming all our friends visiting us this weekend for our parish fair. As St. Paul tells us today: “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you. (Rom 15:7)” I pray you find a warm welcome from our parishioners as we celebrate the love that binds us which is the love of Christ Jesus. I invite everyone to join us at the fair to get to know your fellow parishioners and to welcome all those who visit (and eat great food while you’re there). And finally, I want to thank all the volunteers who tirelessly worked for months to make our parish fair a success. What a wonderful way to begin this Advent season: coming together and working together in joy to build up our parish family. See you at the fair!
God bless you all,