From the Pastor's Desk

     The prayer of Christians during the Advent Season is, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come!” The call of ancient Israel was ”Adanah Adonia?”, or in English, “How Long, O Lord?” This year, our Fourth Week of Advent is only a few hours long. After that, our time of longing and calling for the Lord Jesus becomes a joyful acknowledgement of His presence already with us.
     The longing for Jesus to come close to us should not disappear with the celebration of Christmas; it should intensify. Throughout the history of Israel, during the periods of freedom and the periods of captivity, the longing for the Lord remained constant. The people tried to be “in tune” to God.
     In the Gospel passage, Mary could sift through the noises of her day and hear the voice of God. She recognized instinctively that God’s work of salvation was beginning and that she would have a role in bringing it about.

     “How is it going?” “Oh, I’m plugging along.”              
     Christians do not “plug-along”. Christians thrive because the spirit of the Living God is not only within them, God guides them. For that reason, St. Paul, in the Letter to the Thessalonians says, “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.”            
     In John’s Gospel, we hear once again, of St. John the Baptist. In the verses that precede our reading, the Evangelist tells us that Jesus is the Light for the human race. When the Baptist speaks, he announces that he was not the light, but came to testify to the light.            
     The Gospel also tells us that Jesus is the “Word.” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.   All things came to be through Him [the Word.] St. John the Baptist understood that he was not the Word; he was the “voice.”            

     The Season of Advent has only three full weeks this year. Christmas Eve is on a Sunday and that means that the fourth week is only a short few hours. This reality makes the Gospel message of the last number of weeks powerful- because time is running out. Or, perhaps, through the eyes of faith, “Time is running to God.”
     Our Church Calendar gives us a sense of being a little behind. Our First Reading speaks to that reality. Jerusalem is in captivity, far from their holy temple, far from feeling any “comfort” or any sense of being cared for. We hear the Prophet shouting to the alienated what he himself has heard and what God is going to do.
     We can easily read into the First Reading an error. It sounds as if we should straighten our roads and level valleys that our Shepherd will be pleased and we will finally be holy. It sounds more like work than comfort.
     The Psalm that we pray today places the emphasis on what the Lord always does. So Advent is a time for our coming closer to God and God already being closer to us than we have expected. During these days, we pray to notice how God has drawn close to us- because He has!

     Happy New year! Today is the first day of the new Church year. And yet, in our civil calendar, we are in the 11th month of the calendar year, five months into the fiscal year and right in the middle of the academic year. It is truly brilliant that our Church year is not confined to the business–as-usual world we live in. Our calendar creates a dissonance in our lives that reminds us that we live our lives out of a totally different framework. The birth of the Messiah centers our year. He is at the heart of everyday of our lives. The new Church Year puts our focus on our need for God.

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