Let the wilderness and the dry-lands exult,
let the wasteland rejoice and bloom,
let it bring forth flowers like the jonquil,
let it rejoice and sing for joy.
The glory of Lebanon is bestowed on it,
the splendour of Carmel and Sharon;
they shall see the glory of the Lord,
the splendour of our God.
Strengthen all weary hands,
steady all trembling knees
and say to all faint hearts,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.
‘Look, your God is coming,
vengeance is coming,
the retribution of God;
he is coming to save you.’
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
the ears of the deaf unsealed,
then the lame shall leap like a deer
and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy
for those the Lord has ransomed shall return.
They will come to Zion shouting for joy,
everlasting joy on their faces;
joy and gladness will go with them
and sorrow and lament be ended.
Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains! You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon. Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’
As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says:
‘Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way before you.
‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’
…he is coming to save you.
This season of Advent has been relatively ‘quiet’ by my usual standards. There has been little merrymaking and I am not planning to attend nor organize any more parties. Nor am I looking forward to eating and drinking myself silly or splurging on presents. Christmas this year has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
I am known to be fastidious in my preparations at work, whether for an event or a project that I am tasked to helm. Even if I am hosting a small party at home, I make sure that everything is set in place and all food, ingredients are prepared way beforehand. Last week, I welcomed some friends to my home for the first time and we had a jolly good time in the kitchen, just chatting away and enjoying the home-made pizzas, salads and banter. Looking back, it drove home to me the constant need to be prepared, however ‘chill’ other people (or, in the case of my party, the main chef) tell me to be.
For us Christians, the same principle must apply when we prepare to welcome Christ. My parish priest said it best at Mass today – what are all our preparations for? The tree, the decorations, the shopping, the wining and dining; they all come to nought if we are not prepared in our hearts. If, in our haste, we start yelling at the driver in front of us, or cursing the person holding up the front of the payment queue at the store. Or get frustrated at our family members for not chipping in for the family get-together. The list goes on and on.
And even though I turn the big 5-0 a week before Christmas, I do not desire any big celebration. I look back on my ‘wasteful’ life and thank God that He rescued me from myself in 2011, when I encountered Him at the Conversion Experience Retreat. Today, as I look forward to the coming of Christ, I know where I want to be in my heart when we gather to welcome the Saviour at midnight mass. After all the strife, stress and strain of the past year, and after He spoke to me as I walked the Camino in September, I just want to give thanks to each and everyone who has touched my life this past year. In my heart, I will be holding the smiles and tears of many who made (and continue to make) a difference in the way I live my life.
Brothers and sisters, Christ came to save the world and to give us new life. Let us not cast him aside and think only about merrymaking and giving or receiving expensive gifts. Let us spend time with Him and reflect on those who have made a difference in our lives this year, whether family member, colleague, acquaintance, or someone who you greet every day. Let us remember why He came to be with us on that magical night more than 2000 years ago.
(Today’s Oxygen by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Father Almighty, in this season of Advent, fill us with love, peace and joy as we search deep within our hearts for the true meaning of Christmas.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ.