Zephaniah 3: 14-18a
Philippians 4: 4-7
Luke 3: 10-18
“Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.” (Zephaniah 3)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4; 4-7)
We are in the third week of the penitential season of the Advent; the time of preparation for day of Christmas, to celebrate the coming of the Son of God into this world. It is a time of expectation; anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, at the end of time. The third candle on the Advent wreath is pink; most priests celebrated Mass this day, wearing pink rose colored vestments. It is the Church telling us that the time of preparation, of more intensive prayer, of reflecting on Scripture, of ascetic practices are almost at end.
Truth be told, it is hard to live a penitential lifestyle during the days leading up to Christmas. The somber liturgical purple colors are overwhelmed by the bright colors of red, white, and green. The bright Christmas lights decorating our city streets, the stores, and our office spaces; yes, even our homes; tell us Christmas is here! During a time when we are asked to curb our desires, we are encouraged to consume more and more. Whether it is buying lots of Christmas gifts, or the eating of Christmas candy and pastries, we are told the celebrations start now.
Yet, sometimes I think we are being feed a false message by the merchants, the politicians, and city fathers. We see in the news of tragic events, the murder of innocents, both at home and abroad; and we experience fear. We see, and hear, the messages of hate, whether spoken by terrorists, or our politicians, filling the airwaves and the internet. Many of us are feeling the burden of an uncertain economy, feeling the anxieties of making ends meet, of keeping shelter over our heads. And we have our own inner anxieties, which keep us up at night. The “Christmas Season,” only adds to the anxieties.
It is at this moment, we need to hear the booming voice of St. Paul, saying to us: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” We are not an abandoned people; Emmanuel! “God is with us!” The Son of God came into this world to free us from fear; from sin and death! Jesus Christ has come to give us his Spirit, to cleanse us with fire, to energize us with the fire of the Holy Spirit. He invites us to enter into an intimate relationship with God, through Scripture, through prayer, and receiving his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. If we are able to do that, strive to do that, St. Paul promises that our anxieties and our fears will have no power over us: “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
So we have one more week before Christmas Day, a week to enter again into a time of true preparation to celebrate that wondrous day! To prepare our minds, our hearts, our souls to hear, really hear, the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.