Whenever we expect company in the evenings, it is common to turn on the porch light. Our beacon of welcome streams out to greet the visitor to our home. This is not new for people have lit a candle or oil lamp for centuries and have set it at the window or outside as a sign of welcome. The welcoming light is a sign that the people inside are alert, waiting for the arrival of an important guest, and the porch light outside or the light in the window says so.
This time of year is called Advent, which means coming because we are preparing for the coming or birth of Jesus at Christmas. This period of Advent time lasts four weeks. It is the time of year when we can display in our homes the Advent wreath with four candles that are lit each consecutive week to remind us of the need to prepare and to be alert. The Son of man is coming at “the time you least expect” we read in the Gospel. Jesus reminds us in today’s scripture that we must “be alert” for we do not know “when the time will come.” We need to keep the steady flame of the Spirit of Christ burning in our hearts all the weeks of Advent as a sign of God’s presence in our lives.
This time of year, families are busy buying or pulling out boxes of Christmas lights and ornaments to decorate their homes for the Christmas season. This is a beautiful custom, apart from the commercial aspect which is hard to avoid, for it reminds us of the importance of Christmas when the baby Jesus was born in a simple manger, and that He came to redeem us from sin. Churches, malls, streets and homes are decorated inside and outside as a sign of preparation, and as a way of celebrating the Christmas spirit. Do you like it? The sound of Christmas music in the air? The joy, the love, and the frivolity of little children running about, having fun, because Christmas is coming? It renews children with hope: hope in something extraordinary, the birth of Jesus, that raises their spirits.
Often, we get caught up in the externals of Christmas, the dazzling lights, the Christmas shows on television, and the gifts wrapped in colorful packages. No wonder Christmas is the biggest shopping time of the year! But it is much more than that. We need to prepare our hearts and minds to live the spirit of Christmas, that spirit of listening to Christ, and putting His teaching into practice. That’s what Advent is all about.
So, try to be more sensitive to one another’s needs this Advent. Try to visit someone who is sick or in hospital. Try to help the needy in your midst for that will gain you entrance into Christ’s kingdom faster than fasting. Listen more carefully to what the scriptures have to tell you but, above all, try to live them. In other words: “Stay awake! For you do not know when the time will come.”
You don’t have to do anything extraordinary to stay awake and to be prepared for Christmas. Create a spirit of joy in the home; help one another-your parents, brothers, sisters, spouses, friends and neighbors during this preparatory season. Make an effort to reach out to the neediest and most vulnerable in your midst, knowing that when you do this you are experiencing the very love of Christ. Be grateful for those who make you happy and light up your life for they are the gardeners of your soul who make you blossom. Spread good cheer wherever you are. There is enough gloom to go around without you adding to it one iota more. Be cheerful and grateful for all that you have: your friends, your family and loved ones, your work, your education, and your life. Too many people crucify themselves between two thieves: regret for the past, and fear of the future rather than being content with the blessings they have. Enjoy what you have!
Above all, try to see Christ in everyone you encounter irrespective of race, background or creed. Forgive one another; encourage one another; and be respectful of everyone you meet from the greatest to the least.
Try to act like Jesus who came among us to save us and raise us up to be more than we are.
Fr. Hugh Duffy