Monday, December 24, 2012

God made the first move

"'Why do you think it is,' [JB] went on, 'that people spend so much on Christmas? What it is they are looking for in the bright lights and decorations, food and drink? Each one is lonely. Each one is chasing friendship and community'" (The Advent Calendar). One of the major themes explored by the late John O'Donohue in nearly all of his published writings is our deep need to belong, to be accepted, loved. One expression of this same desire is the number of people who turn up at Church on Christmas, many are people who are otherwise never to be found there, except perhaps also on Easter.

Nonetheless, many Christians, those of us who are there every Sunday, on all Holy Days of Obligation, who manage to make it to confession regularly, remain content to play the role of the older brother in St. Luke's parable of the Prodigal Son, and grump, complain, and groan about the audacity of those who only "bother" to turn up only once or twice a year. So, it helps for us to be reminded of just what people are seeking so that we can be welcoming, joyful, plumb glad they are with us to celebrate our Lord's Nativity. Failure to do so only shows us our need, our insecurity, our fear that we are not fully accepted and loved. In order to be secure, we must first know that we are loved.

Throughout this Advent, which concludes at sunset today, the Lord, in His infinite goodness, has led to me to reflect on my deep need and desire to be loved and to show me, yet again, that He just as deeply desires to meet my need. Plus, to recognize that this is a need that I, in turn, as a disciple, a husband, a father, a friend, a deacon, need to recognize in others and to witness to them just how He has met my need by loving them.

Angels announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds

"The hunger to belong," noted O'Donohue, "is not merely a desire to be attached to something. It is rather sensing that great transformation and discovery become possible when belonging is sheltered and true."

Turning a last time to The Advent Calendar, to the wise guide JB (for the John the Baptist)- "the most important lesson in preparing for Christmas is this: use these weeks before the Holy Day to practice forgiveness, to be reconciled, to let go of old hurts and wounds, to bring hearts and lives together again. There is no better way to get ready for the King."

Like Alice, who in that moment was harboring some deep hurts, we might be a little hesitant, a bit hardened, and ask, "Shouldn't you wait, sometimes, for the other person to make the first move?" To which JB responds, "If each is waiting for the other, the waiting will last for all eternity. Make the first move. Make up. Be reconciled. Forgive and you will be forgiven." It is a lesson best learned, as JB tells his hesitant friend, "in the doing not the hearing."

With the Incarnation, God made the first move.

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