Don’t know about you, but I was caught a bit flat-footed by the first Sunday of Advent.
Perhaps it’s because the Thanksgiving holiday (in the US) occurred a bit later than usual this year…which pushed the torrid commercialism of “Black Friday sales” right up against the beginning of the new liturgical year…
In any event, I found myself standing a bit slack-jawed this weekend – my heart and spirit thoroughly under-prepared to enter into the holy season of Advent.
Instead, my mind is racing in a hundred different directions – wondering how I’ll get revved up to meet a couple of work deadlines over the next couple of weeks…how my Sweetie and I will manage to get the shopping done…how we’ll tackle all those medical tests and doctors’ appointments…how we’ll get our house all tidied up and ready to receive family on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Granted, my December schedule is positively tame compared to the “To-Do lists” many people attempt to tackle this time of year. Even so, I saw myself reflected in the portrait Jesus paints in today’s Gospel passage – the image of a people so preoccupied with life’s little details that…
…[t]hey did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
Better to ‘stay awake,’ Jesus says. Better to ‘be prepared’ for the day on which the Lord will come.
But what does this mean, precisely – to ‘be prepared’? As I wrestled with the question today, I found myself being drawn to the model that Jesus himself offers, through his incarnation. In fact, I am filled with wonder at the very notion of this mystery: God, emptying himself of Godliness, to become an utterly dependent fetus…tucked away in the Blessed Mother’s womb.
Jesus’ birth takes place in Bethlehem, of course – and if you go there to venerate the site, you’ll notice something odd about the entrance to the Basilica of the Nativity.
You have to duck to get in.
The small rectangular opening was built in Ottoman times, to prevent looting. And its size has an interesting side effect today: Even the most important visitor must bow down before entering this holy place.
Which is to say, we all must become more like Christ in order to fully appreciate this mystery.
We must work at emptying ourselves…at shedding our preoccupations…and at embracing stillness…in order to connect with every grace that Advent offers.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.