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Advent Reflection

Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
Fr. Ed Nowak, CSP
November 27, 2022

Pastoral Reflection for First Sunday of Advent November 27, 2022

Once upon a time, a little boy was playing with his toys at the foot of the stairs in his parent’s house. Towering above him was a great, old grandfather clock that had been in the family for generations. It would chime each quarter hour, striking the number of hours at the full hour. Just at the moment that it began to strike the hour, the mechanism jammed, and it counted ten, eleven, twelve, and then continued past to thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen. The boy listened, for he had been practicing his new skill of counting, and looked up in amazement at the clock. He jumped up and excitedly ran up the stairs into the family room where his mother and father were reading. He shouted, “Listen! It’s later than it has ever been before! Come and See!

It is indeed later than it has ever been before. As the years and seasons pass, we are that much closer to meeting Jesus either when he comes again or when we go to meet him ourselves. Our church offers us the liturgical season of Advent as a time to reflect not only God’s Incarnation into our world over 2000 years ago but God’s intimate presence in our lives here and now. We are also invited to prepare for Jesus’ return at the end of time.

While there are always four Sundays of Advent there are not always four full Advent weeks before Christmas as there are this year. We have the fullest amount of time this year to spiritually prepare ourselves for the season of Christmas. How can we best do this during our society’s celebration of Christmas that seemingly starts earlier and earlier every year with Christmas decorations in stores?

In the midst of our secular world already very busy celebrating a Christmas season with Christmas songs, decorations and Christmas activities, our liturgical season of Advent invites us to slow down and take time to reflect upon our relationship with God and each other. Some of the traditional secular Christmas stories during this time of year can help us to reflect on what is most important in our lives.

A number of years ago I had a dream that was similar to Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”. In my dream I awoke on Christmas day totally unprepared to celebrate Christmas. I had not bought presents nor written any cards. I had not watched any traditional Christmas shows; and even more importantly, I had not thought or prayed about Christmas at all. And here it was Christmas day. I felt awful and totally unprepared to celebrate the Joy of the day. When I awoke from this very vivid dream, I was thankful to realize that Christmas day had not yet come and that I still had the season of Advent to prepare for it. That dream helped me to cherish the time given to me to spiritually prepare for the celebration of Christmas and to be ready to welcome Jesus when I least expect.
Our reading from the prophet Isaiah on the First Sunday of Advent proclaims that people will stream toward the Mountain of the Lord saying, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” When we make the effort to spiritually climb the Lord’s mountain and to be instructed in God’s ways, we will find that we will have a better view of our life and relationships that only a mountain top perspective can give us. We will know how to better walk the path of faith that God invites us to walk.

Making the extra time for prayer in the midst of all we have to do can actually help us better accomplish all that we need to do during this busy season in a more spiritual way. As we go about our external Christmas preparations, we can prepare ourselves spiritually by patiently waiting in lines and offering prayers for the people we encounter. As we write each Christmas card, we can take a moment to pray for the person or persons. Another way to prepare ourselves spiritually is to be more aware of God’s desire for us to be more reconciled with God, others, and ourselves. Is there anyone we need to forgive or to ask to be forgiven? Opportunities to avail ourselves of the sacrament of reconciliation are more available during Advent. Here at the Paulist Center, our Advent reconciliation service will be on Saturday December 17th at noon.

Even though it is later than it has ever been, I pray that we may all find the time in the midst of this busy season to allow ourselves to be ever more transformed by our awareness of God’s intimate love for each of us. In doing so, may the world be all the more transformed by that same love.