Readings (Year C):
Reflection: A divine spark in you and me
On this first Sunday of Advent, we celebrate the beginning of a new liturgical season in the church. We now prepare to officially remember and give thanks for the birth of Jesus, our Lord and savior.
This is no surprise to anyone. For some time now, all the stores and TV commercials have told us that Christmas is coming. But of course their focus is more on buying gifts rather than on adoration of the Christ child. Those three wise men had no idea the trend they would put into motion.
Our focus is on God’s gift of the divine presence incarnate in Jesus. He was born of humble origins and destined to fulfill the promises made in the Hebrew scriptures, like the passage in today’s first reading. In today’s gospel reading, Jesus talks of his second coming and tells us to be vigilant at all times and to pray.
So Advent has a double meaning. We celebrate the birth of Christ, and we wait in hope for his return at the end of time.
As a child, I remember asking my father if he thought that the end of the world would come soon. He told me, “Don’t you worry about the end of the world, worry about when you die. That is the end of the world for you.”
I have since learned that we are called to give an account of our life every day. In the seminary, we had an evening exercise called “the examination of conscience.” We were asked to review the activities of our day in light of the commandments. I still find this an excellent time to thank God for the day’s blessings and ask for ways to improve.
God’s incarnation, or presence in Jesus, is a beautiful mystery to contemplate at this time of the year. Jesus’s experience of God, his unity with the Creator, is part of the message he wanted to share with all of us, not just in words but in our own experience. Jesus invites us to experience that oneness, that unity of spirit, he had with God.
He saw this divine spark in the people he met. It did not matter if they were male or female, Jew or Gentile; all have God in them and are worthy of love and respect. In India, Hindus greet each other with the expression “Namaste.” I am told that means “the God in me greets the God in you.” Advent is a time to celebrate in a particular way the God present in each of us. Celebrating Christmas is also a reminder of God’s presence in each of us and in all of creation.
Maybe the stores and commercials have got it right to some extent. It is all about the gift; not what we buy for one another; rather how we acknowledge one another as gifts from God. We are called to give ourselves to others as Jesus has done and continues to do through us and all people of goodwill.
To be vigilant and to pray means to be aware of the gifts all around us, and be that gift for others. So with the psalmist, we pray: “To you O Lord, I lift up my soul. Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths.”