Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Everlasting Desire
As the whole world prepares to celebrate Christmas, making believe that the Christmas Season has started (It hasn’t yet, you know), I want to pause with you to consider the real need, the real desire we all have in our lives. This need, this deep desire is the need for the presence of God.
The need for God’s presence in my life, and in all our lives becomes quite obvious when we consider the power of sin within us and among us. There are times when, as St. Paul says in the Letter to the Romans, the forces of darkness appear to domineer us. “Who can save us from these, who can save us from ourselves?” St. Paul asks. Then he answers, “The grace, presence and life of Jesus Christ alone can save us.” His very name, Jesus, means, God saves us. He saves us from our sins. He saves us from ourselves.
When we consider our need for God’s presence and the world’s need for God’s presence, our desire for God deepens. We work so hard to provide the very best for our young people, our children, our families, and our neighbors. Yet, we continually run into problems that we have no way of preventing. The effects of the power of darkness are all around us. I have reflected with you on the poor women who are suffering post abortion stress. They were forced into a bad decision by people they trusted. Now their lives have been radically changed. There darkness was caused by a world around them that rejected love. How many people have darkness in their marriages? One person gives himself or herself to another in love, but the other person is only concerned with taking. A very good person ends up in a very bad marriage. One family suffers from alcoholism or some other form of substance abuse. Another family suffers from sickness. Many mourn the loss of a loved one, particularly at Christmastime. All of us encounter situation after situation. We must call out: Come Lord Jesus. Come and deliver us from these dilemmas. Come and restore the world to your original plan where people would not suffer the deadly effect of sin.
The Advent prayer is the prayer of the Church throughout the ages: Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.
Yes, the Lord did come 2000 years ago to begin the transformation of the world. And yes, the Lord continues to come to us on our altars and in Word and sacrament, but the transformation of the world has only begun. The Lord promised us that he will come again to free us from darkness. And so we still pray 2000 years after the first Christmas, Come Lord Jesus!
To understand deeper our eternal desire for the Lord to come again, let’s focus back to that time 2000 years ago in Palestine as Joseph traveled with his pregnant wife Mary to his ancestral city of Bethlehem. Joseph was a member of the family of David. David had been told in today’s first reading: “Your house will stand forever.” But there was no descendent of David on a Jewish throne. All those, like Joseph, who could trace their lineage to David were just common folk now. They and all of Israel were oppressed by the Romans. The people were being led into immorality by these pagans and the Syrian and Greek pagans who proceeded them. Those who tried to be faithful Jews were subjected tot he rigorous laws of a dead and hypocritical temple cult. They witnessed the one Jewish ruler, Herod the Tetrarch, act as morally degenerate as the pagans. Joseph and the people of his time felt darkness around them. They called out to God to come, come and set things straight in this twisted and deformed world.
It was to one of these faithful Jews that the angel Gabriel came. He called her “full of Grace”. He told her that the Lord was with her and that she was blessed among all women.” Right there, in these words of Gabriel, we learn everything we need to know about Mary. She was united to God from the first moment of her existence. She was full of Grace. She was the one who was chosen, blessed among women. She was the one whose desire for God was being answered. The Lord was with her. Mary was so open to God that she could receive the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit during her normal day. She didn’t have to journey to the Temple to experience God. She lived in his presence. Pope St. Leo put it this way: “Mary bore God in her mind before she bore him in her body.” Her desire for God, in fact, was so intense, that she immediately responded to the angel’s message. She immediately set into motion the very action of our salvation.
This desire that the ancients had for God, this desire that Mary had to be his handmaiden, leads me and us to ask, “Do I really desire him? Do we desire him? Do we crave his presence to come and return our world to his original plan? Do we really want our lives to be transformed by the presence that we celebrate on Christmas Day.?”
We cannot live without Jesus Christ. Well, we cannot live a meaningful life, a life worth living, without God. If we are satisfied with whatever the world has to offer then we are just puppets of our environment and misfits of creation. If our Christmas becomes a celebration of things and not a spiritual celebration of the presence of Christ, then our Christmas will just be a yearly exercise of summoning up the proper emotions, another day of empty smiles, another day that will come and go without effecting us.
“Our hearts were made for you, O Lord, and they cannot rest until the rest in you.” St. Augustine had it all together. We are always longing. We are always seeking. We are always desiring. But the only desire that fills us is
the desire for Christ. And so, we pray, Come Lord Jesus.
We are given the celebration of Christmas to come closer to God. We are given this feast to recognize that he alone can answer our needs.
Take time this week. Make time this week. Make time on Wednesday evening, the holiest night of the year, to talk to God about what we all really need, His Presence, His Love. Take time to ask God to come, come and set things straight. Take time to join the Church of every generation in praying: Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.