For all the hype about the Mayan calendar doomsday prognostications, Christians will recall that, despite numerous attempts to engage Him in such speculations, Jesus was never tricked into predicting the day or the hour. In fact, he denied the “Son of Man” even had knowledge of it. Why assume the Mayans – or anyone else – would know more than Him?
One of the major differences between Christian and pagan eschatology – the word theologians use for discourse on the “end times” – is that fearful images and signs to describe the last days are not presented to scare us to death but rather to arouse our desire for the coming of Christ in glory. They are, in effect, a wake-up call for deliverance to the Promised Land where all we have been hoping and waiting for finally happens: the fulfillment of all our deepest longings.
It is an invitation to living to the full, not a harbinger of death and destruction. All that will be lost is what never could save us anyway and what in fact keeps us enslaved in fear. It is, in effect, a journey into freedom and eternal joy. Advent provides us with many opportunities to rehearse, so the speak, our journey to the Promised Land of every soul, our liberation from the sins and habits that enslave us in the ways of death.
The traditional Mexican celebration called Las Posadas – posadas are “shelters” – is an Advent retelling of the journey of Joseph and Mary on Christmas Eve. Joseph, Mary and a guardian angel travel in procession to three pre-arranged houses. Mary and Joseph ask for shelter through a song. Some of the participants sing along with them, asking the household for lodging. Others play the role of an innkeeper and reject them. At the third house, the household recognizes Mary and Joseph and welcomes them. A posada concludes with festivities of a piñata, songs and food.
Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search for shelter brings to mind the struggles of immigrant workers. The Holy Family resounds with the plight of immigrants who are also in search of “shelter.” We are also mindful of the dislocation and severe personal hardships at this time, resulting not only from the recent natural disasters but also the global economic situation adversely affecting so many families. Although the celebration of our religious holidays brings the comforts of faith and friendship to many, the idealized memories of Christmases past do not always match the realities of the present.
Our Catholic family of faith is uniquely blessed and privileged to be able to welcome everyone, especially those who may feel distant from the warm embrace of God’s love. Our generosity of spirit can be expressed, first of all, in our willingness to make the sacrifice of time to prepare ourselves spiritually for the Lord’s coming. That means claiming the hour or so each Sunday at Mass, and even during the week, to listen to the Lord and the people around us.
We recommend a visit to the website of the U.S. Catholic Bishops (www.usccb.org) for some day-to-day advice on how to make the best of Advent. Just click the link: “Enter Fully into the Advent Season.” It will take you to a virtual Advent Calendar which contains prayer and action suggestions for each day.
We do not grow in any relationship without taking or responding to initiative. Advent is all about God coming to us and at the costly price of risking everything. During Advent, we should reflect on that one night God crossed all borders to make a home with humanity.