Children are addicted to Christmas! Yes, they are. In fact, Christmas without children is unimaginable. Christmas marks the birthday of one of their kind, and you wouldn’t want to spoil the Christmas for any child. Children expect gifts from their parent, and other people at Christmas and one of the worst Christmas’ for a child is one without a gift. From the time you make a promise to give a gift to a child to the time you present the gift, a child expresses two emotions: joy and expectation; there is, however, a third element which sustains these two and that is WAITING.
Waiting is an important exercise that most of us often try to avoid. The primary reason why we disconnect from waiting is that it seems to take our productive time. However, life itself is all about waiting from conception to birth and from infancy to adulthood we have to wait for events to follow each other. We do not harvest as soon as we plant. We wait for our food to cook before eating. There is always a waiting time for all activities. One of the things that I have learned is that we mature as we wait.
The First Reading (Isaiah 35:1-6a.10 ) begins with an invitation to exult and to rejoice. There is always a reason behind all emotional expressions. Often we asked people why they are happy, sad, joyful, sorrowful, moody and so on. This idea balls down to the principle of causality which states that there is a cause behind every effect. Here we can ask why we should rejoice since we still have two weeks before Christmas. Does it not look like celebrating in the middle of the forest?
The invitation to rejoice at this point in our Advent journey is a divine reassurance that our waiting is not going to be in vain. The call to rejoice is a perfect demonstration of the potential effects of the coming of the Savior in our lives. We learn from the First Reading about some immediate changes that would occur at the time of the coming. The desert and parched land represent our disconnection from God. When we are far from God due to sin and disobedience we become a desert place; like our Lord would say “cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The rest of the images we see in the First Reading tell us about restoration. Restoration is one of the ways God uses to compensate His people after a period of their disconnection from Him (Joel 2:25; Job 42:10). The passage notes that there will be a restoration of the lost glory, our hands and feet get strengthened again; we shall experience divine vindication, the eyes of the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the lame will walk again.
All these are physical expressions of the spiritual regeneration we shall experience at the time of the coming of the one who will redeem us. The assurance we receive here is that our sorrows will turn into joy (John 16:20), dry bones shall rise again(Ezekiel 37:7), and there will be a lifting up for us (Job 22:29).
While there is this invitation to rejoice, St. James tells us in the Second Reading ( James 5:7-10) to be patient and wait for the actual coming of the Lord. The theme of waiting comes out very vividly here. It is most important at this time when the world is turning ADVENT into ADVERT. Most people are more concerned about Christmas holiday than Christmas HOLY DAY. May people cannot wait for the child to be born; practically the world is pushing for a premature baby in a manger. The truth is that at this time Mary is still pregnant, and the due date is still a fortnight away; we need to wait! It is when they hear the cry of the baby that people jubilate.
The Gospel Reading summarily tells us to watch out for the fruit of his coming. We shall experience his coming through the transformations we will experience around us and which will confirm the words of the First Reading “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers become cleansed; the deaf hear, the dead rises, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them.”
There is a need for us to reflect deeply on the potential impacts of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in our midst. Christmas is not all about physical merriment. It is not all about eating and drinking, buying things we already have and spending so much money we could give to the poor on decorations that will become obsolete after the first week of January.
There is a need for us to gauge our spiritual engagement during this season of Advent. We cannot have a wholesome Christmas without an active Advent. The disposition we give to the Advent period determines what we get at Christmas. Let us rejoice because the Savior is near. However, we need to wait for his arrival not idly but by attending to the recommendation of St. James in the Second Reading where enjoins us to have a firm heart and to abide in loving relationship with one another while doing the will of God.
There is no way we can make a rightful Christmas without a well-articulated Advent. So many people seem to put the Christmas before the Advent, and this is an acute misplacement of values and priorities. The joy we are asked to express on this day is not on account of the materials we have been able to accumulate, but on a result of the fact that the Lord will soon be born in our hearts which we ought to have made ready for him.
Have a great third Sunday of Advent. Rejoice our Lord is coming, but we still need to wait until he comes.