Blog # 416 Advent 2
Advent has often been envisioned as a journey. We are traveling to Bethlehem to experience again the birth of Jesus. It is not a question merely of remembering, of turning the clock back almost two thousand years or walking in our imagination on the physical terrain of Israel. Rather it is a question of finding a place in our minds and hearts here and now that Jesus can call Bethlehem and come to be born there according to the Father's plan.
Our goal is 'Bethlehem'. It is a state of mind, an attitude, a collection of desires and an awareness of the gift of freedom rather than a physical place. How do we get there? As with the goal of any journey, the direction we take is determined by where we are when we begin the journey. If you are going to New Jersey you travel south from Boston and north from Washington, D.C. On our Advent journey to Bethlehem, if we do not realize that Jesus is God and that God is the Creator of all, then we will not have an adequate idea of what is going to happen. If we do not have an idea of God's intense love for us we will not know the real reason Jesus was born. If we do not see that in Jesus all of creation is connected, then we see only part of what He came to do. Our personal salvation is only part of the whole, and we must see beyond ourselves to understand fully His birth.
Advent is the time for considering and responding to all of this. We have gone to Bethlehem before. But each year we come from a new place and a new time. We were never here in our life before. It has never been now. We bring new gifts, new memories, a new sinfulness, new joy. lf we make an effort to set aside some quiet time and energy for God to speak to us, Christmas 2015 will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience of spiritual growth.
The theory is that as human beings and as Christian believers we are hungry for this. But there are distractions, with so much going on around us and within us at this particular moment of history that focus upon other stars than that of Bethlehem. I think it would make good sense and I would like to see the whole world respond to the birth of Jesus with an enthusiasm matching that shown in the streets of Atlanta years ago when the folks greeted the new world boxing champion returning home from his defeat of Mike Tyson in the ring, or in Chicago when the whole City seemed to come out to the streets to honor Cardinal Bernadine as his funeral procession passed by.
I feel this way not because of some long habit of thinking of Jesus as worthy of our best love, but because of a personal relationship with Him based upon a deep fundamental conviction in faith that He is God. God is the Creator of all, and God loves me and all people with an everlasting love. That love brought Jesus to Bethlehem. That love invites and leads us there. To love Jesus more and to be loved by Jesus more is a real reason for going to the Bethlehem in our hearts to kneel quietly before Him in joyful praise, heartfelt thanks, and humble adoration.
But there is more. The love we receive is to be shared with those around us. As the Father sent Jesus, Jesus sends us. (Jn. 17: 18; Jn. 20: 21). What Jesus came to do we are sent to do. "Love on another as I have loved you." (Jn.13: 34; 15 12. It takes time and energy to discover what this means. That is why it is good for us to celebrate Advent again. It gives us an invitation to look around and within us, to ask questions, some new ones, some old ones with new answers, some we have never asked before.
Advent is a journey. Sometimes the road is bumpy and rough. Sometimes it is night. It can be a long road. Sometimes there are more people going in the opposite direction. But Bethlehem is real, and Jesus will be born again and again until the end of time. Come, Lord Jesus! Make us ever more worthy of your presence in and around us. Teach us how to live the faith and love you have given us. Amen!