Christmas Joy For an Advent People

buddy christ

 I’ll have to ask my instructors if this is accurate theology!

I’ve been trying to avoid speaking of it and writing about it, but I’ve got to ask: what are we to do now that they world did not end on December 21st, 2012? There are a lot of different insights and reflections that have come up while I’ve remembered how great was the experience of my first semester at St. John’s, I think the words from one of my favorite bands, Flogging Molly, go a long way in telling the truth of my time so far: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Sure, term papers, final exams, and meetings with spiritual directors and formation advisors can seem like a burden while Christmas break is on the mind, and they can make the days seem kind of long some times, but when looking back on it all, I can’t believe how fast this is all going. I mean, it feels like not too long ago when my parents dropped me off at the Juan Diego House at the beginning of my formation three and a half years ago, but now I’m almost half way to Ordination. And sure, there have been long days and nights of study and ministry, but the time really feels like it’s flying by. So, it’s really had me thinking about the real cultural phenomenon we’ve just lived through together with this “Mayan Apocalypse.”

Just a look at almost anybody’s Facebook page can confirm that we all had last Friday on our minds for a long time. Oh yeah, we’ve been shrugging it off with jokes and laughter, especially since the sun came up on December 22nd. But how many of us, when first hearing that the mysterious Mayans and their uncannily spot-on astronomy “predicted” the end of the world, were actually looking at our calendars for the things we’ve been looking forward to in 2013 and beyond and telling ourselves, “Jeez, I hope the world doesn’t end then”? I know some of us wanted the truth, reading up on the Mayans, hearing about all the ways the world could end, whether it be some crazy polar shift, or a mysterious rogue planet or meteor strike, or even Jesus’ Himself coming back. But I think we’ve got to ask ourselves, amidst all the joking, all the deriding of the ancient Mayans and their astronomy, all the hilarious Facebook memes: Were we seriously concerned the world would end last week? How did we prepare ourselves or worry about it? What do we do now that it seems that nothing at all happened and now it’s time to get back to work, back to school?

I’ll be honest, when I first saw the previews for that “2012” movie that came out a few years ago, I got pretty upset. I mean, people have been asking me for a few years now when my Ordination will be, and I’ve been happy to tell them that if I stay on track, I’m looking at 2017. But, oh man, I would sometimes think, I’d be so mad if the world ended before then! Even if not all of us can admit that we’ve been even a little afraid that last Friday was actually going to be our last day as a planet, we’ve got to be aware of the bravado, the false courage, the brave faces we may have put up for the last few years, as we’ve been counting the years, months, and then days until “the end of the world.” I’ve seen some pretty funny things said about this close call with the end, but I’ve also seen some pretty mean things, and some (good and bad) things said that may show the true values we hold as we prepare for when God may actually call us back through death into His own life with Him in heaven.

So what does all this have to do with our longing for Christmas and the fact that it is now here? I think that this whole December 21st thing has told us a lot about who we are as a culture. Some of us laugh in the face of death, either because we don’t care or because we’re too afraid to admit that we are afraid. Some us don’t want the end to come because we don’t think we’re prepared, or we’re so attached to our goals, our successes, and our legacies. For me, having admitted I’d have been pretty angry if the world had ended before I could be Ordained, I’ve got to better come to terms with what it means for me to be living in the here and now. Am I too attached to the Priesthood, too attached to my expectations and goals? The funny thought occurs to me: what if Jesus came back last Friday, what if He actually comes back this Christmas? Would I be angry because I couldn’t finish my Seminary formation in time to become a Priest!? So please continue praying for all of the Seminarians, that our joy and your joy may be why we’re doing what we’re doing, not our own ambitions.

We’ve all been praying all Advent for Jesus to come back, not just into our spiritual lives, but to really, really come back, to save us, to bring peace, to fulfill our hopes, to set the prisoners free from the shadow of death, to prevail over the gates of hell, to teach us how to really love, to bring all of heaven behind Him! Yet, we can be so attached to our goals and our plans, that we might see Jesus’ coming this Christmas and His coming back into history as a nuisance, as a disruption of our daily lives and hopes. So may this Christmas time, which is so special to us, as the Church, that the feast itself actually lasts eight days (called  the Octave of Christmas), be a striking reminder that we’re waiting for more than just the coming of Jesus into our hearts. In a world that is torn by war and the fear-mongering media which has had us so afraid of the end of the world for years now, this Christmas must be a time when we set our hearts on Christ as He will actually come one day, as hard as it can be to believe sometimes, and a time when we can realize that we need to better prepare each other for this moment for which we were made.

Yes, we’ve survived another Apocalypse. But what are we going to do with the time that we’ve now been given and blessed with? Are we going to live like before, unprepared for Christ and living in fear of the end? Or are we going to live as an Advent people, always waiting for Christ, always thankful for these days of waiting? I really hope we’ve learned more about who we are over this last week: that we’re not just a fearful people, afraid of the end of the world, always watching our calendars, but that we’re a joyful people, prophets always shouting and preparing the way with John the Baptist and longing with Mary, with a love beyond all telling, for our King’s return.

home

Back at home, after a successful semester, the sun

again rose on December 22nd.

-Tim (ST)

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