On faith: Advent
By: Fr. Michael Lyons, Pastor, Holy Spirit Two Harbors and St. Mary's Silver Bay, Lake County News Chronicle
We are already more than half-way into the season of Advent. During Advent we are invited to engage again in the anticipation and hope of the people of ancient Israel for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Redeemer. It is important we do so with the help of the relevant scriptures. It can provide both an antidote to the commercialism of the season as well as an awareness of the spiritual challenges it may present.
“Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of the glory of God forever, wrap the cloak of integrity around you, since God means to show your splendor to every nation under heaven.” In this oracle of salvation, the prophet Baruch embraces the sorrow and distress of a people burdened with the consequences of past infidelity. In doing so, he also encourages them to trust that, whatever the difficulties; God will fulfill his promise of salvation.
Over many generations the people of Israel had lost all sense of God’s presence among them. Israel had indeed been called as God’s chosen people, but despite repeated calls to fidelity, had given her heart to the pursuit of material wealth and prestige. Only when Israel had acknowledged what she had become was she ready to hear the promise of the Prophet Baruch. Only when we do the same can we fully engage the message of Advent also.
Because our busy lives get even busier at this time of the year, we can easily find every excuse to hide from what we may have become and to exhaust ourselves in the many social and family demands crowding this festive season. The only time that matters is what we give to worship and prayer, asking the Spirit to reveal the spiritual wilderness that can be masked by our very busy lives. Only then can we also hear the voice of John the Baptist and experience being filled with the kind of longing that draws us closer to Christ.
“A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”
To hear John’s voice however, we must somehow choose, as perhaps did the crowds that flocked to hear him, to hush the superficial noise of our daily lives. After all, John and his promise of salvation were not found in the malls or market places of Judea, but in the spiritual wilderness of the surrounding pagan culture.
One final thought! It is sometimes the case, that our lives are lived with a feeling of unspoken resignation, with a sense that we are what we are, and that there is little we can do to change our world and ourselves. John the Baptist challenges that assumption however. Quoting Isaiah, he roundly affirms that it is God himself who straightens our winding ways, who lays low the mountains that we may have made for ourselves. All that God asks is our cooperation and that we use whatever resources we might find helpful, especially of course His Word.
Read Joseph Brodsky’s poem:
“The savior was born
into fierce, brutish cold.
Shepherds’ small campfires blazed in the wasteland.
A blizzard seethed and battered the souls
of the humble kings who bore gifts for the infant.
The camels lifted their shaggy legs in sequence.
The wind howled.
The star, aflame in the night,
looked on as the paths of the three processions
converged on Christ’s cave like beams of light.”
May the light of Christ guide you! Have a blessed Christmas!