Happy New Liturgical Year! It’s almost here, and I’m posting this early so you have it before Advent starts. We have a light at the end of this seemingly never-ending pandemic tunnel. It’s not the end of covid, of course, but it’s something to look forward to. We can wait joyfully for Christmas.
Maybe Grandma can’t be with us or the rock stars we call cousins. But we can wrap ourselves in the awe and wonder of Christ come to earth over 2,000 years ago as a tiny child. Just for us. Just because God wanted us to know how much He loves us.
You are LOVED! Not for the cookies you bake or your impeccable Christmas decorations or your winning lawn display or even the donations you drop off everywhere. You are loved because you are you. You were made perfectly for what God has planned. Advent is a chance for each one of us to dust and polish, not just the silverware and bookshelves in our homes, but the clay the Potter shaped into these earthen vessels. Some of us will need more elbow grease than others, and some of us will be surprised at how brightly the people in our families shine when that layer of neglect has been wiped away.
Instead of making a gigantic to-do list, why don’t we simply bask in the glow of that beautiful golden thread of God’s plan recognized in Scripture, and in each of His marvelous creations? Why don’t we reflect on the signs and symbols our church surrounds us with?
The First Week of Advent: Be Tiny. Be Humble. Hope.
A tiny seed is buried in the ground. There it stays, hidden and awaiting the water and sun and nutrients that will unlock its immense power to grow and change and become something big, the something it was created for. It sprouts, leaves grow, and it continues to develop until it is a large bush.
Likewise, a microscopic egg, already fertilized, buries itself in a new mother’s womb. There, this baby waits, growing and changing each day through the power that was hidden inside. What it always was – the beginning of a new human life – begins to be noticed and recognized as the gift of a new child.
One small, unnoticed teenager, buried in the obscurity of womanhood in the time of Roman rule, unlocked by the power of the Holy Spirit, begins to grow and change, becoming more and more recognizable as the wonderful, unique creation God had made her to be – the very first Tabernacle, the Mother of Jesus.
God has surrounded us with hints about His nature and His plan throughout all of creation. Again and again, He takes the insignificant, the overlooked, and unlocks the power He had always had hidden within them.
To be humble, then, is to recognize from whence the ability or power to do anything comes. It also means knowing that we are nothing without that power. Why is it that we can see and walk and talk? Why do our bodies change? Who sets the seasons in motion? Who put our earth and the stars in the sky?
He gave us everything we needed to live. But, He knew that even that would not be enough to save us. And so, He gave us His only Son, Jesus Christ, too. He gave Him to the world long ago, but He continues to offer us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist, a small piece of bread, full of hidden power, just waiting to be buried in our bodies where it will grow and change us.
Jesus gives us the chance at eternal life with Him in heaven. Is there any gift we could possibly give to measure up?
But is there anything God has asked of us as a grateful response for such a gift?
Maybe it’s something small, like keeping our temper in check when we’re trying to get out the door with all the kids, or praying before every meal. Sometimes, it might not seem like a big enough call to remember, so we pretend it’s not important.
Or maybe, it’s something big, like cantoring at funerals and Mass. It might feel too big, too scary, too important, so we find a reason we can’t.
Open your heart to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the key to unlocking the power God’s already placed inside you, so that you can offer a grateful response, a heartfelt thank you hidden in a good work this first week of Advent. Make yourself insignificant so that God’s work through you can grow and change the very landscape of our lives.
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.”
-Catechism of the Catholic Church