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Third Sunday of Advent

Associate Jennifer Hollis

Jennifer lives in Ontario and works in an agency assisting new immigrants. She reminds us how important it is not to miss Advent and to discern how we are to respond to the invitation of Advent.

We rejoice this Gaudete Sunday. The birth of our Lord is near. The readings fill our thirst for justice, calm our fears and inspire us with great hope. We hear of “abundant flowers” and “everlasting joy” (Isaiah). “The blind regain their sight” and “the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Matthew) Wow! Feels like it may be Christmas already!

Not so fast. Our second reading reminds us to be patient. “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it, until it receives the early and late rains. You too must be patient.” (James)

In this season, we are all sprinting to the finish line of Christmas, yet at the same time fearing that the race will be over before we have even put on our running shoes. In our haste to celebrate Jesus’ birth, we are missing the blessed expectancy. Christine’s reflection reminded me that in order to get ready for Christmas, we actually need to ready ourselves for Advent. We need to patiently travel with Mary and Joseph as they await the birth of our Savior. So let’s all dig out our spiritual Advent wreaths together. It is never too late, and as Andre has taught us – any “little light” will do.

Recently, I have been volunteering time selling Christmas trees as a fundraiser. This year, I find myself fascinated with the different approaches people take to selecting a tree. Some people just run in and pick the first tree that they lay their hands on. Others make a discerning selection, reviewing all the types of trees, their needles, views from different angles, line of the trunk and giving the tree a good shake.

Find myself wondering what each group of people could learn from one another. Was there a message to be shared and experienced across the two groups? As a person prone to over-analyzing a tree selection (and most everything else in life), found myself a bit awe struck by those that trust in their first selection -- wishing I could be more like them.

In this week’s Gospel, John the Baptist is both a messenger preparing the way for Jesus while also perhaps in need of a bit of reassurance himself as he sends the disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come or should we look for another?” (Matthew) What messages do we need to take the time to receive and share this Advent? How can we welcome and rejoice in differences? How can we be present though action and prayer to those on the on the peripheries of hope? Do we need to trust more, hope more and take a leap of faith and grab the first tree? Do we need to slow things down, discern and gaze at those needles a little longer? Are we mindful of those that both literally and figuratively do not have the luxury of picking out a tree at all?

Ultimately, no matter how people go about their selection, they all radiate joy as they leave with their trees. Several have also made selections for those that wouldn’t have had a tree this Christmas, no doubt bringing joy to others. Witnessing the joy of those making their selection also brings deep joy to the volunteers. Each time that I have been heading over for a shift, I left the house feeling rushed and further behind schedule on my long list of to-dos for Christmas. Would ask myself, “Just what was I thinking?” Each time I returned, though, I came home refueled with joy and hope for the Advent journey. In my rush to get ready for Christmas, I just might have missed Advent. None of us will ever be ready, but we are abundantly blessed that we will all be given the gift of joy and love in Christ’s birth. All of our Advent journeys are different just as each of us is different, but as we attempt to get ready together, may we take the time to learn from each other and be present as messengers of hope this season, particularly to those that need hope the most.

 

 

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