This Christmas we should change our gifts to each other and give the gift of change. Advent is a time reminding us to draw closer to God, a time to take stock and renew our faith life. The second reading says, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks”. But for many of us, our Advent, our preparations for Christmas is party without ceasing.
Advent is a good time to reflect on how lukewarm we are in our faith. Prayer versus party. Are we rejoicing for the right reason for the season? Yet Advent is not a time of judgement even if we party more than we pray. It is a season of reminders. Above all it is a time of welcome when we are invited to come closer into the presence of our Lord, to be re-connected to God so that our lives can be for the better.
Many of us remain lukewarm simply because there is nothing much happening spiritually in our average life. God is somewhere there and there is no need to be that close to Him. Until perhaps a crisis occurs and we suddenly feel a need to be in a relationship with Him. And then we discover that we simply cannot connect.
Advent is a period of opportunity. Many lukewarm in faith will appear in the many events we are invited to. For some, Christmas is the only mass they will attend in the year. Advent becomes an opportunity for mission to bring the gift of Jesus into the lives of many who so lukewarm that they are lost and are spiritually disconnected.
All of us can give this gift of Jesus which is a gift that will change the life of others. As we wrote last week, this is the gift of our faith story, a testimony of our real life experiences of Jesus.
There is no teaching and we should not preach. There should be no hint of condemnation. Our sharing and discussion with them should not be judgmental. We must welcome them in their doubt and gently lead them, step by step, to see the hand of God in their life, and the shadow of a faithful God ever present despite them not knowing how to acknowledge and appreciate His presence. The only book that we can refer to are from the chapters of our own life story. We must dig deep and be vulnerable, share our hurts and our subsequent healing. Our honest testimony an effective way to clear their doubts.
Our faith story will help make God more relevant in the lives of many who are lukewarm. Our stories will encourage them to go back into the history of their life and begin tracing their own footsteps through the personal events of their life; small and big. These events altered the course of their life and hopefully they see in them the silent, guiding hand of God. When they do we have given them the gift of Emmanuel, ‘God is with us’.
When we manage to clear up a bit of their doubts and create a clearing for them to find a path out of the lukewarm state, we continue the work of John the Baptist, “I am a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord”.
And so this is our gift of change, our own personal story that changed us. We “bring good news to the poor, to bind hearts that are broken: to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison”. Our faith story can do exactly this: to bring Jesus to those in poverty in their faith life, those broken and in need of healing, and those entrapped by their unbelief.
We can go to as many parties as we want but we must remember that first and foremost we are there because we are party to this mission.
3rd Sunday of Advent