by Chris Ketelsen, Oblate of Benedict
Advent is “Christ Living Among Us” according to St. Oscar Romero.
Shepherds greeted Him – a cosmic joke! My favourite priest was a Malkite priest named Fr. Norman who had spent many years in the Holy Land. He said God had a great sense of humour, choosing the shepherds to be the first to greet His Holy Son. Father said the shepherds worked extremely hard for months at a time out with their flocks and came home ragged and dirty and smelly! Proof that God loves the poor, the lowly, that they are special to the Lord.
The Baby Jesus proclaims His love first to the children, the poor, the homeless, the eager and loving, before he meets and acknowledges the Magi, the kings, the philosophers!
Throughout Jesus’ life there is a prophet proclaiming Him in the wilderness, exhorting everyone to repent and prepare for His coming. This Prophet knew Him before He was born: the baby John, who leapt in his mother’s womb in acknowledgment of the will and adoration of God for His Son and all the world. And John devoted his life to preparing the way and baptizing the people in preparation.
And now, at the beginning of the Advent Season 2020, we are called again to be ready and waiting. I once knew a very young woman, about the same age as Mary was when pregnant. She used to talk to me while she was awaiting the birth of her own baby. She said she had cleaned and cleaned her house and still felt compelled to make everything ready, so she ran outside and cleaned the INSIDE of the mailbox!
We need to metaphorically clean our souls for Jesus. Whether it takes “some assembly required” to complete, or whether we have to start from scratch, God gives us the weeks of Advent to get ready and to let Him know that we are ready and willing to do ANYTHING for Him.
In the first Nativity play I directed with my kindergarten and first grade class was a little boy, Keith, dressed as a shepherd. Unable to contain himself, he ran out onto the stage, pointed excitedly at the sky, and proclaimed, “Look at that bloody great Star!”
And John the Baptist, living in the desert and eating locusts and honey, prophesized, “I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” We need to surrender ourselves to the excitement, to be wholly ready for Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
In this pandemic, wearing our masks and keeping socially distanced, we will still greet and please the Baby Jesus. We will still be able to gather at the manger in homage, because He is always with us, in all the worst of times, even when we forget.