HOMILY: Advent Spirit

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

2nd Sunday of Advent | December 5/6, 2015

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.

So I feel like I must begin this week by going on record to state that I love Christmas music.

Silent Night.  Carol of the Bells.  O Holy Night.  I love them.

No my friends, my issue is not with Christmas music per se.

I just happen to be an Advent purist.

And therefore, I firmly believe that one should not begin listening to Christmas music until Christmas Eve.

Now let me tell you, this is no easy task.

I am constantly flipping radio stations trying to avoid a Christmas song inserted into the regular programming.

My colleagues at Nativity have taken unnatural delight in making sure Christmas music is playing whenever I turn the corner.

And even my own brother Oblates are a source of temptation as I hear the familiar seasonal refrains echoing down the corridors.

Nevertheless, despite the challenges, I have not abandoned my quest to remain Christmas-music free for these four short weeks.

Now, I have been asked by many why I even bother.  It is a hopeless cause, they say.  Others think I am a modern reincarnation of the Grinch intent on stealing everyone’s joy.  Why is it such a bad thing that people are trying to get into the Christmas spirit?

Now to be honest, I hadn’t really given much thought to my position until recently.  It was just something that I had begun doing with more and more intensity over the years.  And yet, after reflecting on the readings for this weekend, I now understand why.

See I’ve always known that there is nothing wrong with trying to get into the Christmas spirit.  But I have come to believe that we must first live in an Advent spirit before we can ever truly appreciate the joys of Christmas.

And this Advent spirit is different from Christmas.

It is a spirit in which the darkness is named and reverenced.  A spirit in which the darkness is not run from, but rather entered into.  A spirit in which the darkness is gently embraced and then gradually dispersed by the growing hope that builds with each week.

It is a spirit in which the voices that cry out in the wilderness are heard.  Voices that are often drowned out in the sea of noise that can define this holiday season.  

In the barrage of commercial advertisements, small talk at holiday parties and yes Christmas music, we can easily miss the voices that are still crying out in the wilderness.  Or worse, we can deny that those voices are even there.

The voices that remind us that the world is still awaiting the final act in the unfolding drama of human history in which we can once and for all take off the cloak of mourning that still clings to us.  

The final act in which the world is truly at peace.  

The final act in which justice truly reigns in every city and every land.  

The final act in which love and love alone defines our relationship with each other and with the world in which we live.

The voices that remind us that we are not there yet.

The voice of a student asking me to sit with him in his grief as he buries his cousin, as he sits beside his grandfather in the Hospice ward, as he tearfully asks for one last chance, as he rages against a world that leaves his mother in the throes of an addiction, his father in jail, and mounting bills that somehow must be paid.

The voice of a friend asking me to sit with her in her anxiety as she grapples with balancing work with her family and always filling torn between the two, in her fear as she moves across the country, as she applies for a new position, in his uncertainty as the threat of divorce looms around the corner, as the lab reports come in, in their grief as the pregnancy tests come back negative,

The voice of the stranger tugging at the edges of my comfort zone.  Reminding me of the fact that they still hunger even as I eat, that they are still naked as I am clothed in splendor, that they are still homeless as I am welcomed home, that they are still forgotten as I am cherished, that they are still feared and despised even as I am loved.

The voice within that reminds me of my own need for redemption.  The voice that reminds me of my own rough edges and my lingering scars.  Of my sinfulness and my brokenness.  The voice that reminds me that I am still a work in progress even as I remain a beloved Child of God.  

The voices that tell us that there is still work to be done.  That the time of preparation still remains.

And in listening to these voices, I am challenged to watch and pray.

For the coming of the Christ child who will bring the kingdom that I seek.

Who will bring the peace, the joy, the comfort, the wholeness, the compassion, the love that we seek.

The Christ child who lives within us calling us to continue the work.

Yes, my friends, I believe that we need our Advent in order to find our peace with the world as it is, even as we await the joy of the world that is to come.  We need our Advent even as we await our Christmas.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.  And ransom us your captive Israel.  

May God be Praised.

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