We're now in November and already I've heard mention of Christmas on commercial radio. In the next few weeks the airwaves will be saturated with Christmas melodies -some sacred and some very profane. Before long shop windows will be decorated with streamers and balloons and with trees garlanded with flashy baubles and twinkling lights. There we shall see the figures of bearded old men in red pyjamas and floppy hats, and of bewildered reindeer with ruddy, cold noses. This will be a season when people are intent on getting me to buy loved ones presents that they scarcely need and perhaps don't really want.
All the Christian Churches are concerned that the season has become hijacked by commercialism. Before I take this up I would say, "Spare a thought for the business houses that have had a lean year, and, for their survival, look to this season for some trade!"
The stores have seized hold of the traditional optimism and high spirits long associated with this season and have turned it to their advantage. Excitement and the anticipation of embraces, laughter, joy and peace build up to a climax towards the end of December. Then there will be family get-togethers, parties, and an out-pouring of good-will that expresses itself in the exchange of greetings and gifts.
It's not absurd to ask, "What's all the fuss about?" We should not be surprised if we meet people who have never thought about it and can't give a coherent answer. Could it be said that the celebration of a highly significant event has been reduced to a 'feel-good' festival and nothing more?
The Churches must reclaim their own festival.
JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.
My belief is that this must be stated loudly and clearly at the very beginning of the Liturgical Season of Advent. Everything that is read, preached and sung should be directed to emphasizing this, so that we become and remain focused people...with the focus being on the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Mary.
The very idea of it arouses in me emotions of eager anticipation. And what about you? None of us should ever lose sight of why we are so excited.
THIS IS IT: God so love the world that He sent His only Son...
His loving the human family with such intensity is breath-taking. What amazing compassion that He should send His Son -NOT to condemn the world, BUT TO SAVE IT.
Such fantastic optimism that God was convinced that He could save our world, with all its sinfulness, through His Son, born of a woman in a stable outside Bethlehem! But is this world worth saving? Yes! Yes! Yes! This is God's unwavering perspective...in such strong contrast with the common tendency to find so much to condemn and so many people to condemn. By sending His Son God defies the assertion, the counsel of despair, that ours is a hopeless world, a God-forsaken place to live in.
Rather, the Father knows well enough the power of His love to save through His Son, Jesus. He is confident that He can inspire people to respond to His love, and thus allow themselves to be saved.
As I strive to reach God my way, during this approach to the Christmas season, I find that what God had to offer seems so paltry, so puny -an infant born to a poor family. The salvation of the world was cradled in insecurity -Jesus being born into an unfriendly world, utterly dependent on His being wrapped in the swaddling clothes of good-will sufficient to ensure His survival.
As a Christian who enjoys all the strident, clamorous merriment of the build-up towards Christmas, with the expectation of a somewhat carefree, extravagant season of jollity, I must hold fast to my primary focus -the birth of the Saviour, Jesus. This means that my hope for better, happier, more loving, more prosperous times must not be mere half-hearted wishful thinking.
As a Christian I must imbibe something of God's fantastic optimism -the world is not beyond redemption. It can be saved. This is not merely a genuine possibility. It is both an accomplished and an on-going reality...in and through the One born of Mary, centuries ago, and now, in this generation and in every generation born in the hearts, the very lives, of those eager to receive Him.
At this season I reach God by sharing in His optimism, by not allowing myself to become discouraged by the presence of evil in my own life and in the lives of others. If I am capable of being saved by my responding to the love God shows me through His Son, Jesus, there is absolutely no reason on earth why others should not respond in the same way.
This great Good News deserves to have Banner Headlines at the beginning of Advent, throughout Advent and throughout our lives. This Christmas meeting God in the Word become flesh and dwelling amongst us is most surely the greatest of all encounters...myway is supremely godsway.
Next week Isidore will reflect on meeting God in a "Hairy Scary" experience