The Christmas decorations went up fast this year; in fact, the Christmas wreath on the Dustbowl corner of McElroy was hung before Thanksgiving (it seems now that Christmas starts sometime in November). The lights are burning on the trees, the boughs tied to the railings of the staircase, and finally, we woke up to snow yesterday morning (though it was so very short lived).
But something has gotten lost in this hubbub and humming of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”. Now, we’re not ones to tread on the Christmas spirit of others, but for many people, that Christmas spirit seems to have neglected a very key component, that the season of Christmas (which actually begins on the evening of December 24th) is preceded by the season of Advent.
What modern society seems to celebrate as “Christmas” is actually the time of preparation for the coming of Christ in the one Mass of the year specially named for Him. Advent is a time for recollection and renewal, a time to turn inwards and to examine ourselves in the light of the oncoming Incarnation.
Although the incomparable joy that awaits us on Christmas day is omnipresent, we nevertheless are called in these four weeks to look back at our lives, both now and over the past year, to see in what ways we have succeeded and in what ways we have failed to live out the promises of the Incarnation in our everyday lives. We joyously look to the glory of the Lord prophesied by Isaiah, but we must equally be mindful of the gross darkness of sin that covers us, the black pitch of iniquity from which the coming of the Lord of Hosts is to free us.
Let us attend, therefore, to the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” For indeed, as John preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, so it is for that reason that the virgin conceived and bore a son whose name is Emmanuel. Let us reflect on the words of Isaiah, who tells us, “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory. The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.” (Is. 3:8-9) He seems especially to have been talking to BC students when he said, “Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them! ...but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.” (Is. 5:11-12)
But even as we recognize the sin into which we have fallen, let us not lose sight of the pivotal and eternal mystery of God’s intervention into human history, “for unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”