Right now, we are heading for the finish line in this season of Advent as Christmas day is in sight. Advent becomes more muted as Christmas plays and Christmas carols, along with Christmas gifts, of course, dominate the landscape. The, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and the longing for the birth of a Savior has pretty well been overtaken by “Joy to the World, the Savior’s Born.” Also, once Christmas Day comes and goes, the world is off to the next sales event. In our faith tradition, the Christmas season just begins and lasts all the way to Sunday, Jan. 13, with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. That’s when all the decorations and Christmas music comes to a conclusion.
Getting back to the Advent season, there are two main focuses that center on Jesus Christ, the God-man. We do celebrate his birth into the world, which include all the preparation and details that are full of meaning. We ponder on the mystery of how God would humble himself to enter into our world in a stable, be placed in a manger, the feeding trough of the animals, and ultimately become the food and drink for humanity by offering us his body and blood. This is just one of the innumerable facets of his life that comes to mind and whet our appetites for a greater longing to receive his presence in our life today.
The second focus is that Christ will come again into this world, which will signify the end of time. He will come, not as a newborn babe, but in his power and glory along with his hosts of angels. He will separate the good from the bad, and his kingdom will last forever; a kingdom of truth, justice, peace and love. We are called to wait in joyful hope for the coming of that kingdom by keeping our nose clean. Thus far, in our rather short human history, that kingdom is beyond our life span. We do look forward to being in a place where there is no more evil, suffering, and sadness as we prepare to leave this world.
In the everyday present, we can look back to when God did come into the world over 2,000 years ago, or dwell on the end times and get caught in the “Late, Great, Planet Earth” mentality. Jesus can become a blast from the past who comes and goes each Advent/Christmas time, or one whom we believe is coming now and for whom we have closed up our shop and packed our bags. St. Bernard of Clairvaux offers us some insight in one of his sermons that tell of the Third Coming of Christ. Rather than being after the Second Coming, it is sandwiched between the first and second coming. St. Bernard refers to Sacred Scripture and quotes Jesus words, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.” This breaking of God’s presence into our lives comes in the here and now. St. Bernard encourages us to let this word “take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness.” In this middle coming, “Christ is our rest and consolation.”
This presence of Christ breaks into our lives as a present each day. We are called to discern that whether it appears to be good news or bad news. At this particular time, I have announced to my parishioners that I will be resigning from the parish as pastor, effective Jan. 2, 2019, for personal reasons. It appears to be bad news, as I have enjoyed my five-and-a-half years here. Good things have happened, and I have received many blessings. In the midst of this rather quick development, nevertheless, I am experiencing God’s rest and consolation.
Father Michael Watson has served for the past five years as the Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Delaware.