Monday, December 21, 2015

Where Are You Headed to Get Ready for Christmas?

Advent 4th Sunday - Year C - 2015
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center

          Christmas is coming!  For weeks now we’ve been preparing the way of the Lord.  For some of us, there is still lots to do.  Trips to the mall, presents to wrap, decorations to put up, house cleaning and straightening to welcome family & friends for the holiday.  Prayers to pray, confessions to make, relationships to heal, habits to be broken, and room made in our hearts for Jesus. 
          How did Mary get ready for that first Christmas?  It’s a bit odd really.  She “travelled to the hill country with haste."  Where are we headed to get ready for Christmas?
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          Go visit a coffee shop and you’ll see.  People coming and going all over the place.  Some dead tired - just coming or just going to work.  Some full of energy and excitement - just beginning or just finishing their Christmas shopping.  Some dressed festively, some dressed plainly.  All of them people on the go.  Their conversations sound something like this:  'After this I'm heading over here to do that, and then I'm heading there to do this one last thing...'
          Mary knew Christmas was coming - she had it on great authority.  Think of all the things she needed to do to prepare.  But where was Mary heading to get ready for Christmas?  "Mary set out and travelled to the hill country with haste...where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth."  She WHAT?  She went WHERE?  Christmas was coming, and there were a million things to do to get ready, and Mary just takes off to visit family - with no apparent invitation, leaving all of her Christmas preparations on a ‘things to do’ list sitting on the kitchen table.  WHY would she do such a thing?  What was she thinking?
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          Well, we don't really know, do we?  We know that the angel had told her of something amazing going on in the life of her kinswoman.  We can imagine that there was some small voice in her heart telling her she should go see what that was all about.  That voice was probably competing with many other loud voices in her mind rattling off other more obvious, more pressing things she needed to do to get ready for that first Christmas.  But somehow, the blessed Mother was able to tune in to that small voice; she was able to hear and follow that quiet invitation to leave the seemingly pressing things alone long enough to go find out what God was doing in Elizabeth's life. 
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          I think all of us have that still, small, quiet voice speaking to us amidst the noise of our Christmas preparations.  All too often, we stifle that voice; we don't heed it.  And where we're heading as we prepare for Christmas is governed exclusively by our own sense of what we must do.  I wonder what miracles we're leaving un-experienced in our own life because of it.  I wonder how unprepared for Christmas finishing our Christmas preparations is leaving us...  I wonder if all that focus and attention on our Christmas preparations is leaving us unprepared for Christmas.
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          In these last few days before Christmas, what is that quiet voice in your heart prompting you to do that’s going undone in the hustle and bustle of your holiday preparation?  Maybe there’s someone we haven't spent any time with because it seems we’re just too busy getting ready for Christmas.  Is God asking you to set off with haste to visit with them, setting aside your all important Christmas list to encounter the work of God in their life?  If you make time to do that, I'll bet you leave that encounter with some new knowledge or appreciation of what God is doing in YOUR life, just like Mary did.
          Maybe there is a relationship that is faltering; or perhaps there's a relationship that need mending somehow.  At this busy time of the year, we might not think we can gather the spiritual or emotional energy to do our part of the mending.  But if that voice in your heart is whispering a name to you right now - the name of someone you know you need to reconcile with - then why not take what might seem like a detour in your Christmas preparations to make things right?  Maybe that someone is God…and you know you need to meet Him in the Confessional before Christmas comes to set your relationship with Him aright.  As we get ready for Christmas, can't we head with haste toward reconciliation with one another and with God?  We'll be surprised to leave those encounters knowing in a deeper way how God is working a Christmas miracle in our life just like Mary did.
          Maybe your heart is whispering to you about someone in need - maybe your Christmas preparations could get around to sending Christmas cards to men or women in our local jails or prisons; or maybe you could take the time to donate that coat you don't wear anymore to the homeless shelter.  Who is that small voice inviting you to serve as preparation for Christmas?
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          Take just a moment to listen - in the silence we share right now - what hidden detour is the Spirit prompting you to take to get ready for Christmas?  That same Spirit that prompted Mary to visit Elizabeth is speaking to you today, right this moment ... what are you hearing?  

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