“Prepare the way of the Lord.” The way of the Lord is none other than our way of life.
As early as September 1, there were Christmas carols being played on radio. The department stores began to display Christmas cards, trees, lights, and all sorts of Christmas décor. Now comes the Church liturgy and announces the beginning of Advent. “What Advent,” you might say. “Father, huli ka sa balita. We have already been celebrating Christmas for over two months now! Our Christmas cards are out; our Christmas trees and lights are up; our Christmas shopping is almost done. Our homes are fully decorated. What Advent are you talking about?”
Kawawang Adbiyento! It is practically non-existent for most people in the Philippines. We plunge right away into the Christmas frills and trappings. We are pushed into this by business interests who use this season as an opportunity, not to bring us closer to Christ, but to rake in fabulous earnings. Big business rules even our spiritual life. That is, if we allow it to do so. Shall we?
It is for this reason that the Church comes now to remind us to “be vigilant” and to “stay awake.” Not to be like the people in Noah’s time who were eating, drinking and having fun; which is exactly what many of us do during the Christmas and pre-Christmas season—going by the number of Christmas parties which are held these days. Hopefully this year, after so many calamities have left millions of our countrymen hungry and homeless, we will.
Advent is meant to be like a fourweek retreat to help us prepare for a meaningful and rewarding celebration of the birthday of Christ. Advent reminds us that it is Christ who is coming, not Santa Claus or the reindeers. Christ, not Santa Claus, is the reason for the season.
Our retreat masters for Advent will be mainly prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist, with their resounding invitation: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The way of the Lord is none other than our way of life. In today’s passage (First Reading), prophet Isaiah describes the messianic time as a time of peace among nations: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another.” It is clear that Isaiah’s vision has not yet been fulfilled, as violence and war wrack many parts of the world. This should help us understand why we need the season of Advent and Christmas to come around year after year: To remind us of the unfinished task of building up peace among the nations.
The symbol of this Advent season is the Advent Wreath–which should be displayed well ahead of the Christmas tree. It consists of four candles, one for each week. It can be made into a powerful means of personal and family reflection and renewal. How? By giving a name or theme to each candle, for instance, Patience, Forgiveness, Unity, Peace (or any other theme of relevance to or lacking in the family). Then, each week, as the family members gather for meals or for prayer, they can have a short reflection and sharing on the theme for the week, and end with a prayer, asking the Lord to bestow on the family the value or virtue meditated upon.
In this way, the Advent Wreath will not be a mere piece of décor but a useful aid for spiritual renewal in the family, by far more meaningful and spiritually rewarding than the mere sight of the twinkling lights around the Christmas tree. A fruitful Advent to one and all!
As published on December 1, 2013, Parish Bulletin
About Fr. Jesus and his reflections