Saturday, December 08, 2012
I wrote this for the St. Benedict's Newsletter
Once again the Church begins its year. It is Advent, the first of seasons on the Church calendar. I ask each of you to resist the pressures of the world. The world says that the time between Thanksgiving Day and the Feast of St. Stephen is Christmas, and then it is all over (because the next big money maker is Valentine’s Day – a day in which that saint and martyr himself is forgotten, of course). But, the Church says that when Christmas comes then it will be Christmas, and until then it is Advent.
Advent is older than Christmas, as feasts and fasts go. The real emphasis is not to prepare for Christmas, but to prepare for the second Coming of Jesus Christ. And, so, in this penitential season, we recognize those four inescapable last things (for each and every individual): Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. Contemplating eternity and facing Christ Himself is a very different emphasis from shopping, the pressure of arranging parties, etc.
There is nothing wrong with those things we do, like buying presents for loved ones. There is, however, something downright exhausting and unhealthy about how our culture goes about it. So, in this penitential season we have extra pressures distracting us from prayer and serious contemplation. It is that pressure I urge you to resist for your own peace. It is time to reflect on eternity that awaits you. It is time now to know you are fully reconciled to God and ready to see Christ Himself without fear or dread. It is time to repent and believe, and so anticipate His coming again with joy and hope.
When Christmas comes, we will remember that the babe in the manger is no one less than God the Son, the Word made flesh here to pitch His earthly tabernacle among us, and so reveal the glory of the Father. The night of His birth is also the night that echoes the night in which He was betrayed. The shadow of the cross falls across the joy of the manger; for He comes to die for your sins and mine in the greatest act of love in all history, before triumphing over death for us in His glorious resurrection.
When Epiphany comes, on a Sunday this year, we will rejoice in the fact that God’s salvation has been revealed to all nations on the face of the whole earth. All the prophets foretold that the glory of the Lord shall cover the whole earth.
That is a lot more exciting than reindeers with red noses, and a lot more meaningful than shopping until one drops from exhaustion. A holiday is a holy day. Let’s all keep it in perspective.
And, have a blessed and merry Christmas.
- Fr. Hart