Second Sunday of Advent 2023
A few weeks ago, I flew to Ireland and the flight from Newark landed in Dublin at 4.30am. Two of my nieces, Lyn and Emma, were flying back from Britain the same day so I arrange to meet them at Dublin airport. What I didn’t realize when I made this arrangement was that my flight would get in so early and their flight didn’t land until 9am. That’s right, a four and a half hour wait, for the most impatient person on the planet. My nieces were returning from a baby shower for my cousin’s daughter who was expecting her second child. The expectation and then the birth of a child is so important that family from all over help prepare for the new arrival. It is both an expectant celebration and a time for preparation.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the experience of expecting a newborn. It is not a time of passive waiting but a time that involves a lot of excited preparation and even change. As soon as a child is conceived change begins to happen in the body of the child’s mother. While it seems on the outside that this change is slow and almost, except for a bump, unperceivable, interiorly the whole of the mother’s body changes to receive and help create a new human being. Families also prepare, they buy things they think will be essential like toys, stuffed animals, Reds and Bengals gear, balloons and then stuff that is actually needed like diapers, clothing, formula, a savings account for Catholic education. They paint rooms for the baby, make the house “child-proof,” they sell the Ferrari and buy a van. They actively prepare.
The image of an expectant mother is also an image that is related to the Holy Season of Advent – in three ways. First, the Blessed Virgin Mary is heavy with child – she is carrying God’s own Son, Jesus. This is a historical fact that we celebrate every year. God sent His Son, “born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). Mary and Joseph, and their families, prepared in the same way for the arrival of Jesus as we all do for our children today. Thank God Mary said yes to God or there would be no Jesus. What a difference a child can make. We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas; the season of Advent is a time of preparation for His arrival.
Second, we prepare each year for a celebration that remembers that Jesus came, and we give thanks to God for the gift He has given us. The gift of salvation, the gift of receiving God’s grace and God’s love. All this is made possible by the birth of God’s Son at Christmas. And so, we celebrate by giving gifts to each other because this reminds us that God has given us a gift. We don’t only give gift to our family and friends at Christmas because Jesus Himself told us that when we celebrate, we should be careful to provide for the poor and the less fortunate. So, we share our joy with others, especially those in need, at Christmas.
Advent also remind us to prepare in a third way, in looking forward to the Second coming of the Lord. Jesus Himself tells us that He will come again. The next time He won’t come as a child but as a judge. Jesus also tells us how to prepare for this Second coming: He will ask us “did you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, give a drink to the thirsty, care for the widow, the orphaned, search for the lost? And if we did, He will say to us come and stand on my right, you belong to me and with me. Advent reminds us to prepare, not in a passive way but in an active way, for the Second coming of the Lord. Our life is a time of active waiting and preparing.