The dust-bunnies began quivering in fear around our place yesterday: Out came the vac…and the mop…and even a scrub-brush or two…as preparations began in earnest for us to welcome guests this week and next.
Personally, I thought it was a bit of overkill…since most of those guests will be male – and therefore (like me) constitutionally incapable of seeing the very dust and grime I was being asked to eradicate through this extended period of manual labor.
Still, as I grunted through the cleaning process – some of it literally accomplished on my hands and knees – it struck me that there was something authentically “Advent-y” about it all. On the most obvious level, of course, we were “preparing the way” for many of those we love to come into our home in the coming week.
But I think what I was actually noticing was something more like this: How the pace of our preparations had picked up noticeably, almost overnight. Christmas, once a distant and anticipated joy, had suddenly become a real thing – an event (not incidentally) requiring effort and forethought and productive action on my part.
The Incarnation, in a sense, had become incarnate – and that meant I / we had lots of stuff to do. It’s time to make haste.
First on the list yesterday: Wrapping Christmas gifts for a couple of teenagers I’ll probably never meet – our contribution to a parish outreach program that’s been warming hearts in a poor rural Missouri community for many years now. It didn’t feel at all like we were putting “Christmas” before “Advent” as that process unfolded. Rather, our simple gifts bore a mark of hospitality: In some small way, we were mirroring Mary’s “Advent instincts” when (as we hear in this week’s gospel) she journeyed to a home far from her own, bearing glad tidings.
Next came the burst of cleaning, scrubbing and scouring around our house. And still to come: there are cookies to bake, more gifts to wrap, more provisions to secure for our Christmas feasts.
Is this any way to spend an Advent, I wonder?
In the flurry of activity, am I missing something important during the final week of this holy season?
But this is a worry that would never have occurred to our Blessed Mother, I’ve decided. Indeed, as scripture tells us, no sooner had she learned about the real presence of Jesus in her life than she laces up her sandals and gets to work:
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste…
The mission: to help her elderly cousin Elizabeth, also now expecting a child. The very first Advent brought out in Mary a desire to share God’s love in some very practical ways. And the same is true for us, writes Sister Barbara Reid, OP, in Abiding Word:
“It is not only for ourselves that the new life is given. We are meant to be companions to one another, a source of mutual joy, wisdom and strength.”
In other words, it is time to make haste in this Fourth Week of Advent. It is time for us to set about the work of bearing Christ into the world.
Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.