The Lord is Near… Not sooo Fast!
Let us rejoice, for the Lord is near! Today is Gaudete Sunday, from Latin meaning “Let us rejoice!” Our readings resound with rejoicing. Zephaniah declares, “Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!” The words of Isaiah reinforce, “Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.” Saint Paul echoes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! [for]...the Lord is near.” Truly, Emmanuel (God-with-us) approaches. And so, “let us rejoice!” for our salvation is on its way.
As the Lord approaches, we prepare for his arrival. Just as when a special guest comes to dinner, so too we need to tidy up and get everything ready. This includes our homes, with cleaning and decorating. It also includes our souls, with Confession and a deeper examination of what might be amiss in our lives. John the Baptist gives everyone some advice in the Gospel, each according to his or her state in life (Lk 3:10-18). What needs conversion in our lives? We are challenged to make straight the path for our God. For when He comes, “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” A striking image of the Mighty One coming with power, as Christ will return at the end of time.
One of the challenges of this sacred season is moving too fast, speeding through the checklist. But when we rush, we miss the deeper meaning of reality. We can scurry along the surface, like one of those water striders on top of the pond, but then we miss the depths. Freneticism does not lead to philosophy; overactivity inhibits deep thinking. Maybe I am just writing this because I feel a little frenetic and need to remind myself to slow down, take a deep breath, and allow God to show me the deeper meaning He has in store for the moment. But I realize many of us are in the same boat, as we get ready to “do Christmas.” Christmas is less a project that needs “doing” and more a season we receive as a gift.
One helpful tip for the season: savor the sacred traditions. My mom calls is “making memories.” We make memories whenever we intentionally spend some time or activity with a loved one. Here are some Wilson Memory Makers: Baking pies with the grandkids, cutting down our own Christmas tree, family tree decorating, watching Christmas Story on the couch, Sunday breakfast. You could make a memory with one of your children by spending some quality time shopping together. Some of my friends with larger families try and do something special with one child every month, just one-on-one. Making memories may mean taking extra time with a friend. Making memories implies quality over quantity, and above all intentionality. We bring our whole selves to the moment… which may require leaving the dang cell phone at home! Above all, making memories means being present to those who are present in our midst, and sharing some holiday joy.
So as Advent progresses, let us Rejoice! And Prepare! And slow down enough to savor the beauty of these days.