Second Sunday of Advent (December 10, 2017)
For some - to a tragic degree - and for most, to some degree, there is a let down when Christmas finally arrives.
There is a psychological explanation for this. Most of us, consciously or unconsciously, have the image of Christmas as a Norman Rockwell painting: a happy family surrounded by loving friends trimming a flawless tree, eating cookies and drinking our favorite beverage: a roaring fire in the hearth with snow seen through the window falling gently and piling in the corners of the windowpanes.
Well, the reality for most - there is more than the snow that is missing.
Spiritually, Christmas is also frequently a letdown. We hear the Advent imperatives urging us. We remember past Christmases and may recall little spiritual progress during our advents.
But, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Our readings this morning suggest some ways of being in the world. Advent is often long on the doing, but short on the being. That leads to the inevitable frustration. Of spiritually empty spirits on Christmas morning,
Perhaps this advent we might concentrate on why john the baptizer is chosen for this time of year. Isaiah, in the first reading, cries out to prepare the way of the lord. John the baptizer proclaims and lives the truth that preparing the way is not in doing, but in being, not in filling, but emptying our lives. He seems to tell us that the desert is the only place bare enough and quiet enough to mirror our lives, our motives, and our disguises.
We need quiet time in Advent, in the beginning of the church year. To get quiet time, we need to reschedule, to reprioritize, and to enable us to get inside ourselves for being with our Lord. That desert, quiet time gives us the opportunity for getting insight in our hearts. John got the insight to “decrease,” to allow Jesus to “increase” in his life. John got the insight to point to Jesus, not to himself. John got the insight to free himself from the system besides getting free from himself.
John called the Jews to the desert wilderness where God could find them. The desert is the perfect place to prepare. In desert isolation, we have no distractions of job, parenting, grand-parenting, even mindless religious practices that maintain our usual routine. When our minds are full of “stuff,” not even god himself can break in to us. John, in his stark lifestyle always had one foot in the desert.
To make this quiet time real for us [it is real without us!!] It helps some to picture Jesus, present, in front of us or present within our heart of hearts, Others use deep-breathing exercises to settle themselves.
We need to be with him . . . and pause to listen to what he has to say to us - what thoughts he plants in our minds. This even helps us to discover God’s presence in the people and events around us. We can see in others that presence/ manifestation of the holy. We can see their underlying goodness
Wonder of wonders!! The more attentive we are to God’s presence, the more we become God’s presence for others.
Finally, when we bask in the presence of God, we feel a quiet joy. We do not have to wait for Christmas there is already a residual joy within us.
What a relief! We do not have to be in a Norman Rockwell painting; we just smile at all that. All we need to do is live in the meantime - cultivating his presence.
We do not have to come to the night before Christmas and try to look like a perfect person who is perfectly ready to greet the Lord when he comes. He has already arrived. Our God loves us as we are - and comes to us in our opening the door when he knocks.
Oh . . . Did I mention that Norman Rockwell was married three times?