The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Today’s readings
#adventnd #christmasnd #advent #christmas

What has captured my imagination as I’ve prayed this Advent is how we have been given this wonderful gift. This gift eclipses anything we’ll ever be given, anything we will ever earn, anything that will ever cross our meandering path in life. Today, the readings call that gift Emmanuel – God with us. I think sometimes we forget how wonderful this is. That the infinite all-powerful awesome God, who is not in need of anything or anyone for His self-worth, that He would choose to come to earth and take the flesh of his creatures, this is a truth too wonderful to even imagine. But not only that, this God took on our imperfections so completely that he paid the price for our many sins, both individually and as a society. He died the death we deserve for our waywardness, and then he rose from the dead in the Resurrection that assures us access to eternal life, if we will but love and follow him. No gift on earth is like this one!

The most important thing that we can know about this Gift is that it isn’t just for us. It is for us, but never only for us. We are meant to share it. Because we have been loved by God who is Love itself, with a love so complete and sacrificial and permanent, then we have to be willing to love that way too. The people God puts in our lives: our family, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbors – all of them deserve to be loved in this same way too, and it’s up to us to be conduits of that love to others.

So we have to be on the lookout for ways to do that. Think about it: those of us who are here all the time could well, and often do, get our noses out of joint at this time of year. We put in all the effort to get here every week, so maybe the lack of parking and the packed seats inconvenience us to the point of irritation. But what if it didn’t?

What if, instead, we used this as an opportunity to put the discipleship we’ve been learning about all year long into practice? What if we chose to see Jesus in all of them, to be aware of Emmanuel – God with us – in such a way that we did everything we could to make their first time with us, or their first time in a long time, a memorable one? What if we as a parish decided that a loving relationship with our God was so glorious, so important, that we didn’t want anyone to go without one? What if, as a community, we decided there is nothing we won’t do to make those who visit us on Christmas irresistibly attracted to our community, so that when they’re here they think, “Those people at Notre Dame know something I don’t, and I have to find out what it is”? Well, that’s what I’d like us to try and do this Christmas.

I liken it to the whole way Jesus came into the world. We all know the story, don’t we? The whole world was on the move, headed to their native places to be counted for the census, and there wasn’t an inn anywhere that would take Mary and Joseph, and the coming Christ Child in. But one innkeeper made some room out back and gave the newborn King the best he could offer. We absolutely know that Christ is in our brothers and sisters, so how on earth can we turn them away? As Saint Benedict teaches his monks, “Let all guests be received as Christ.”

And so I’m going to make some suggestions for things that we can all do to make people feel welcome, to help them to know that there is a joy here in our community that has to be shared. First, make some room. I know we all want to get here first for a good parking spot. But if you can walk here, would you consider doing that, just to make a spot for a visitor? I can remember when my family would try to get to Mass as soon as possible to stake out a good seat, and I’d see so many people with coats over whole sections of a pew like they were lawn chairs on parking spaces in the city! We all want to have room, but if you can move in a little and let some other folks sit with you, would you consider being a bit uncomfortable so that someone can be welcome?

Lots of times people will come here and won’t know where they’re going. We all want to get to Mass on time, but if you see someone looking puzzled, would you consider taking a moment to ask if you could help them? If they’re looking for the bathroom, would you go out of your way just this once to walk them there so they don’t get lost in the crowds coming in on a busy day? Again, as intent as we are to get to our seats, if you notice someone coming in who needs some help walking, could you offer them your arm, or hold the door open?

We all like to see our friends and the people we know at Mass. It’s a comfort to us. So it might take a little concerted effort, but would you consider smiling at someone you’ve never seen before, perhaps introducing yourself and telling them what you like about Notre Dame? Because it just takes a tiny little gesture, or a little inconvenience for us, to make a huge difference. What if every person who walked through the door on Christmas Eve or Christmas had a life-changing experience because of the way that we treated them? We can do that, and I really think that we should. Would you all be willing to do a little something extra to make someone know God’s love in an awesome way? I’m counting on all of you to do that. If every Guest is received as Christ, then as Saint Benedict also said, we will all go together one day to eternal life!

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent: O Emmanuel

Today’s Liturgy has us on the edge of our seats.  As tomorrow’s night turns to day, our salvation will be closer at hand than ever.  Our Savior Jesus Christ, the Promised One of all the ages, will be incarnate among us as one like ourselves.  “And suddenly there will come to the temple, the LORD whom you seek,” Malachi prophecies, and his words could not be more true.  The Gospel, too, has us yearning, as Saint John the Forerunner is born and all wonder at what will become of him.  Little do they know the significance of that event!  Today’s “O Antiphon” speaks of Emmanuel, God-with-us: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”  Come, Lord Jesus; be our Emmanuel – God with us –  come quickly and do not delay!

Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent: O Emmanuel

Today’s readings

Today’s Liturgy has us on the edge of our seats: “Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”  So says the psalmist today and all indications are that that psalmist is absolutely right!  Even the last-minute shoppers are starting to panic, there’s only one door left on the Advent calendar, and our Advent wreath is fully ablaze with all four candles lit… at least it would be if we hadn’t already taken it down to get ready for tomorrow.  But more than that, the psalmist is right about our redemption.  God has chosen to be near us, he has chosen to become flesh and dwell among us, he is Emmanuel, God with us.

That’s our “O Antiphon” for today – “O Emmanuel” – and we sing it in the very first verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Israel may mourn in lowly exile, indeed we might all be mourning the incompleteness of our lives, or the pain we experience, or the sadness that this world can bring us.  But none of that is able to overcome the joy of our God, our Emmanuel, being one with us and leading us through the Cross to the Resurrection and eternal life.  The Son of God has indeed appeared and will appear again.

And so we rejoice at the nearness of our God, we rejoice that grace and peace have come to us, we rejoice that we are not what are sins may appear to make us, we rejoice that there is eternal life, that there is grace, and peace for all men and women of the earth.

In these last hours before Christmas, it would be well for us to take a few minutes to stop all the preparations: to put aside the cookie-making and gift-wrapping and all of the other preparations just for a while.  We need to make that quiet space within us so that Christ can be born in us again, so that we can be filled up with the love he wants us to share, so that the peace on earth we desire can be born within our hearts.

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord our God.

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent: O Emmanuel

Today’s readings

Today’s Liturgy has us on the edge of our seats.  As tomorrow’s night turns to day, our salvation will be closer at hand than ever.  Our Savior Jesus Christ, the promise of the ages, will be born to us as one like ourselves.  “And suddenly there will come to the temple, the LORD whom you seek,” Malachi prophecies, and his words could not be more true.  The Gospel, too, has us yearning, as the Forerunner is born and all wonder at what will become of John.  Little do they know the significance of that event!  Today’s “O Antiphon” speaks of Emmanuel, God-with-us: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”  Come, Lord Jesus; come quickly and do not delay!

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent: O Emmanuel

Today’s readings

“Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”  So says the psalmist today and all indications are that that psalmist is absolutely right!  Even the last-minute shoppers are starting to panic, there’s only one door left on the Advent calendar, and our Advent wreath is fully ablaze with all four candles lit.  But more than that, the psalmist is right about our redemption.  God has chosen to be near us, he has chosen to become flesh and dwell among us, he is Emmanuel, God with us.

That’s our “O Antiphon” for today – “O Emmanuel” – and we sing it in the very first verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Israel may mourn in lowly exile, indeed we might all be mourning the incompleteness of our lives, or the pain we experience, or the sadness that this world can bring us.  But none of that is able to overcome the joy of our God, our Emmanuel, being one with us and leading us through the Cross to the Resurrection and eternal life.  The Son of God has indeed appeared and will appear again.

And so we rejoice at the nearness of our God, we rejoice that grace and peace have come to us, we rejoice that we are not what are sins may appear to make us, we rejoice that there is eternal life, that there is grace, and peace for all men and women of the earth.

In these last hours before Christmas, we need to all take a few minutes to stop all the preparations, to put aside the cookie-making and gift wrapping and all of the other preparations just for a while.  We need to make that quiet space within us so that Christ can be born in us again, so that we can be filled up with the love he wants us to share, so that the peace on earth we desire can be born within our hearts.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come to save us, O Lord our God.