Just a few words about the opening prayer of today’s Mass; we prayed, “Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy.”
There is a lot more to these four weeks of Advent than waiting for Christmas or the celebration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It is better if we look at Advent as the time we give to letting Jesus come closer and closer to us and our un-straightedness and roughness. The closer we allow His birth in us, the straighter and smoother our ways become.
We know Jesus comes to us in every person we meet, family, friend or stranger and often at unexpected times and unexpected ways. Jesus intrudes into our lives, our set ways, our busyness, and our distractions. Jesus interrupts us as we try to cope with our own problems and worries. Sometimes we respond as we should and sometimes we don’t.
There used to be an old Irish custom of leaving a lit candle in the front window on Christmas Eve as a sign that if the Holy Family was looking for lodging this night, they would be welcome in this home. It’s a beautiful thought and custom. There was a woman in the parish who would come to see me every year for such a candle so she could keep that tradition alive in her family. The truth is Jesus comes to us looking for lodging and welcome and acceptance every day of the year in the most ordinary and extraordinary ways.
Isaiah talks about making crooked ways straight and rough ways smooth so that nothing can hinder the coming of the Lord. As I mentioned Advent is a great time when we can take a look at the crooked and rough spots in our lives, our ways of living and loving and relating to other people and with God’s help make those crooked ways straight and our rough road smooth and come to be more open to the Christ as He comes to us in the events and people who make up our daily living.
People get frazzled at this time of year. Just look at the way people handle themselves in a mall’s parking lot. Think of the frenzy of Christmas shopping which will probably be tempered this year because of our economic downturn. Think of all the preparations that go into a Christmas family re-union or the juggling of time to make sure no one is left out of a family visit. This can be a stressful time and so we can come to resent those who come into our lives with their needs. In the midst of all our busyness we’re challenged to light a candle of welcome and acceptance and show we are willing to welcome the Christ who comes to us in so many ways each day.
Advent can be an important for us; it can help us keep our priorities straight. Advent can help us open our lives to the unexpected, even the unwelcome ways Jesus comes into our lives in all the people we meet and help us to grasp the wonder of Christmas. God so loved the world He sent His son to the world, not to condemn us but to embrace our human condition and help us live with our joys and sorrows, our successes and our failures, our strength and our weaknesses.
During these days of Advent we can light a candle of acceptance to welcome those with whom we disagree or those we’ve kept out of our lives because of prejudice. During these days of Advent we can light a candle of forgiveness and heal the hurts that keep others out of our lives. During these days of Advent we can light a candle of compassion and be more sensitive to the blight of good people who struggle to survive as they carry the burden of poverty or unemployment. During these days of Advent we can light a candle of concern for people we know who are in the hospital or house bound and take the time to call or visit them.
As we continue this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we use these days of December trying to remove from our ways of living and loving those things that hinder us from receiving with joy and love the Christs who come into the ordinary living of our ordinary lives.