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“Have a good Advent”

The greeting that leads to a merry Christmas

Before we wish anyone a Merry Christmas this year, we should be wishing each other a good Advent. Even though Christmas decorations began popping up well before the end of October this year and circulars with the festive green-and-red colors began slipping into our newspapers, we should stop for a moment – actually for four weeks of moments – and simply bask in the simplicity and challenge of Advent.

The four weeks of Advent are the perfect counter-balance to the headlong rush to supply a superabundance of answers to the question, “What would you like for Christmas?” If we give ourselves the opportunity to celebrate it, the season of Advent can be an effective vaccine against over-commercialization, because it is the four-week-long answer to what we truly want for Christmas: We want to celebrate and sense the presence and action of Christ in history, mystery and majesty.

Advent always begins with the end – Christ’s triumphant and majestic return at the end of time. It challenges us to be constantly prepared for his return and to act accordingly. When someone says she would like the gift of peace for Christmas, we shouldn’t wait until December 25 to see if it somehow appears. Instead, we should work as good and faithful servants of the Master, doing what we can to reshape our swords and bend our pruning hooks, transforming what can be used to tear down or tear apart into that which builds one another up. Christ comes in majesty as his kingdom of peace and justice continues to come into the world.

Advent always continues with the mysterious arrival of an equally mysterious visitor – John the Baptist. He comes striding out of the desert and into our lives with a strident voice. His clarion call urges us to open our eyes, ears, hearts, minds and voices to the reality of Christ already present among us. When a child asks if he will see the baby Jesus on December 25, we can live in such a way that assures him Jesus will be seen, not only annually in a manger, but daily in our lives – by the Christ-like fruit we bear into the world each and every day.

Advent always ends with a beginning – the experience of the Annunciation. In a manner beyond our ability to completely comprehend, the coming of the Son of God is announced by an angel. The angel’s words, “God is with us,” bring a renewed sense of purpose into a situation that is fraught with anxiety and fear. Because the Word leaped from heaven to meet us in the flesh, we know that even when our world seems to be turning upside down, God is with us, now and always.

Christmas will be here soon once again. But now it is time for Advent. Now it is time for us to reflect upon and live as a people who experience Christ’s presence in history, mystery and majesty. Have a good Advent. And so our journey in FAITH continues.