Whew! Good-bye Thanksgiving! Hello Advent!
Yes! Advent already started. We'll be getting out the giant manger scene and dusting off the sheep. I think we'll take a little drive and get some new straw. You can't dust straw. Well, you can, but if we were going to do that we'd save it as an activity for Lent. As it is, we'll offer up our suffering whilst sneezing repeatedly throwing the old straw out.
I trust many of you have your Advent calendars at the ready. Advent wreaths and candles are getting fired up. What's it all about?
We look to our old pal, St. John the Baptist, cousin of Jesus, who should also be known as "The Inventor of Advent". Mind you, had John the Baptist not invented Advent, we would have come up with it just the same. We like to take four weeks to prepare for major invents in our yearly calendar of following the path of Jesus, and since His birth is one of those events, Advent would have just happened on its own.
But St. John the Baptist spent quite a bit more time than four weeks preparing the Way of the Lord. He was baptizing people on a daily basis for Heaven only knows how long. Since we've already got the baptism part covered, what's left to do?
It's interesting, isn't it that Mr. Baptist was shouting that we should prepare a way for the Lord. He could have said, "Jesus is coming, get ready." Or the currently popular, "Jesus is coming, look busy." (I'm afraid that is exactly what many people are doing.) But no, St. John wants us to prepare a way for the Lord.
I take that to mean we need to examine what it means to follow a way for the Lord. John tells us "make the way straight. This road we must be on with Jesus has to be straightened out and once that's accomplished we still have to travel on it. It's really a hard road, because almost no one is ever on it. You'll be out there on your own, turning the other cheek and loving your enemies, while everyone around you will try to convince you that you must protect yourself at all costs and keep whatever you can lay your hands on and put it someplace safe for when you need it and so you'll have something to leave your children when you die.
Jesus said, "Take no shoes, take no purse..." I think it's okay for you to wear shoes. (Although you only need that one pair you've got on if you shop wisely.) Some of you would actually die if you didn't wear them, those of you in Minnesota, for example. But you'll be on the Way with no money, or just what you've got in your pockets. Jesus says you should consider that God takes care of lilies and makes them beautiful and the lilies know that.
So on top of everything else that is going to make this lonely and difficult and seemingly futile, you have to just stop worrying about it and head on out.
It's too bad we Catholics don't believe in luck, because it seems like we'll need a little.
Lent is also a time of preparation. What's the difference between Lent and Advent? Joy.
Make the way straight. Prepare with Joy. And Santa (who is actually a Catholic saint) and stir. Egg nog with brandy is not far away.