Advent Reflections for Mon. Dec. 23

Today’s readings from USCCB

Advent is a beautiful season of the year. Christians wait and pray for the coming of the Lord. The liturgical texts focus on the Lord’s first and last coming. We anticipate Christmas but we also are reminded that the Lord is at hand. Each Sunday we confess, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” Along with these comings, St. Bernard of Clairvaux reminded us of a third coming that we can celebrate during Advent or any season of the year. This is the coming of Jesus into our hearts as Lord. In the words of one of our seasonal hymns,

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

The fact that Christ came and will come again is critical to our faith. But what difference do those comings make if he has not come into our lives and transformed us into his image? If you are one of his disciples, thank him during Advent for the wondrous gift God has given you by personally entering into your life. Meek souls still receive Him.

The Malachi passage refers to the coming of the Lord God as a refining fire. God will come among his people to purify them so “that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord.” Before this God will send Elijah, the prophet, who will work to reconcile the people to God and one another. Several things about this passage stand out to me. First, Jesus alludes to this text in referring to John the Baptist as Elijah, the one who would come to prepare the way of the Lord. Second, the mission of Elijah is to reconcile parents and children. Is it any wonder that John the Baptist came preaching a baptism of repentance? It takes humility to confess your sins, turn from them, and be baptized. That is exactly what divided families need. Humility will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents. Finally, when Jesus referred to his forerunner, John the Baptist, as Elijah, based on the words of Malachi, it should not shock us that this shocked his hearers. According to Malachi, Elijah will be the forerunner of God himself.

I love the gospel passage for various reasons. One of them is that my wife and I named our oldest son John and I took great delight in quoting this passage when people asked me his name: “His name is John.” Advent reminds us that we live in the kingdom of God by trust. Zechariah learned the hard way that God does what he says. Advent is also a great season for us to meditate upon the mystery of the incarnation and to express our joy that God has come among us. Zechariah’s “mouth was opened, his tongue was freed, and he spoke blessing God.” If you are one of those Catholics who does not sing during Mass, may God pull a Zechariah on you on Christmas so that your mouth is opened and your tongue freed to praise and bless our glorious God! Silence is a good practice for Advent but not for Christmas.

Have a Blessed Advent, what is left of it. And have a Merry Christmas.

George Butterfield
Creighton University

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