Are you Ready for the Christmas Season? — By Fr. Rich, OP

FrRichWebThroughout Advent, our community has been offered themes for contemplation; “Anticipate,” an invitation that grounds the entire season, as we direct our prayers, activities and thoughts to the celebration of the Messiah. Supported by the exhortation to “Be Awake,” we dust off not only the Christmas lights and decorations, but also unused prayers, readings and activities. The parishes in our diocese offer Advent reconciliation services, encouraging us to stop, examine our lives, and seek opportunities to address our faults and failings, to “Repent.” In the week just completed, we are reminded that what we are preparing for is a season that calls us to “Rejoice.” Any birth calls for celebration, new life is always to be welcomed, but this particular birth encourages us to sing a bit more joyfully, to celebrate more readily — this birth is the birth of a king — the king of the universe!

As we enter into this final week of Advent, we find “believe” before us. Interestingly, as we contemplate this word, we are drawn back to the beginning of the season. If we don’t believe, there is nothing to anticipate. If we don’t believe, there is no reason to awaken from our liturgical ordinary time. If we don’t believe, there is no purpose in examining our lives and seeking forgiveness for our sins. If we don’t believe, we have no reason to rejoice.

In today’s world, this invitation to believe carries an even greater imperative than in years past. As I survey the news stories, as I listen to the concerns and fears of those around me, and as I acknowledge my own anxieties, reliance on my faith offers a strong, warm light in the shadows. “Believe” is a challenge, an invitation, and an imperative, all enfolded in a single, powerful verb.

But it is not empty, we are to direct our belief. Isaiah’s prophecies loom large. The foretold Messianic coming is now; John has been baptizing and preaching in the Jordan and this week in our Gospel we hear how that coming began. Between last week’s Gospel and this week, we have gone from the time of transition — John in prison, verifying that the Messiah had indeed come — to that moment 30 some years prior when the miracles and the journey began. The birth was attended by angels, shepherds, and wise men — all creation knelt in obeisance.  All the miracle and signs, trials, sacrifices and tribulations, all the suffering, prayers and study — the time has come.

This final week of Advent is an opportunity to stop to take a deep breath and ask ourselves if we have taken advantage of this season of anticipation, this season of waking up dusty prayers and scriptures, contemplating them anew. Has our contemplation brought us to a desire for reconciling with the triune God, cleaning out the debris and blockages that hinder our relationship with God? Have we, amidst the challenges, craziness and chaos found reason to rejoice in our faith and stand strong in our hope? Have we found ourselves rejoicing in God’s love present in our lives?

The liturgical seasons of our Church calendar encourage us to be attentive and intentional about our participation in the life of our faith communities. How we celebrate our liturgy — the prayers we offer, the readings we proclaim, the music that so enhances our celebration — all of these elements combine to help us experience more deeply who we are as Catholics.

The season we are about to complete enters into one of the most joyful of seasons — Christmas. The anticipation, the planning; are you ready?