Winter officially began on December 21st, the shortest day and longest night of the year. Now the days are getting longer again, minute by minute. And we’ll start noticing the change in a few weeks, nature giving us a clue that after the winter comes spring.
Last Sunday we rejoiced with all the angels and saints on Gaudete Sunday, rejoicing that the celebration of the Lord’s coming is near. John the Baptist takes center stage, preparing the way of the Lord through his baptism of repentance. Surprisingly he preached good news to the people. It is good news that the Savior has come; it is good news we can celebrate Christ’s presence in the Eucharist every Sunday, in season and out of season. We don’t have to wait until Christmas or Easter to celebrate our faith.
On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent John the Baptist enters the scene again. He is still within his mother’s womb but in that moment when Mary greets Elizabeth it is John who rejoices to be in the presence of the Lord within Mary’s womb. The scripture says of Elizabeth “the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1: 44) So, we continue to make ready the way of the Lord and delighting in his presence, we do both in Advent and the Christmas season.
We prepare the way of the Lord by the gifts lovingly purchased to bring delight to one another, selecting gifts that will be appreciated and enjoyed. Thoughtfully considering the needs of the other person makes Christmas a very special time. We prepare for the coming of the Lord by bringing others a sense of hope, when they may feel hopeless.
Finally, you may have already put out your Nativity crèche by putting out the stable and some figures, leaving Mary and Joseph till Christmas Eve. If possible, add the child Jesus on Christmas morning. Make a ritual out of gradually adding the rest of the figures throughout Christmas time with the Magi arriving on Epiphany. When your family gathers together, have someone tell the Christmas story, simply reading Luke’s Gospel account especially for those who may not regularly go to church. When you add Mary and Joseph say a prayer for all those who are homeless this year. When adding the Christ child say a prayer for all the foster children in the world, refugee children and those without a home due to war or violence. Say a prayer of thanks for all those who announce the Good News when you place the shepherds at the crib. And if you know someone who will otherwise be alone, invite them to Mass and your home for Christmas dinner. Plan a visit to someone who is homebound or in a nursing home and unable to come to you and bring a smile to their faces. Let us make this a Merry Christmas for everyone we can.