Glory be to Jesus Christ…Glory Forever!
We have reached the first week of the Fast…the first steps towards the feast of the Nativity…the first movements towards the feast of Joy.
God, who made every single follicle of hair on our head, Who created the heavens and the stars, Who made all of the grass on the fields, Who made both heaven and earth….will humble Himself and come down to our lowly existence. He will descend from a paradise into a place full of sickness, disease, hate and death.
What did we do, dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, to deserve such love from our creator?
St. John says in his Gospel, that “Christ came so that he people of this world might have Life…and that they may have a life in all it’s fullness.” He came and endured scourging, temptation, and death, to give us the opportunity to overcome all of the things which plague man’s existence. He was incarnate of the Holy Virgin so that we could live a life without sadness or fear, and to be made whole in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Feast that we are preparing for is a big deal, my dearest brothers and sisters in Christ. And with knowledge of this love that God shows us, how can the world go through this Holy Time of preparation without giving so much as a thought as to the magnitude of what this season is all about?
Starting with the big Thanksgiving Dinner next week…all the way until Christmas Day, our minds will become completely flooded with added social responsibilities that we are called to complete this time of year. Instead of entering into a state of preparation…instead of working to clear our minds so as to better comprehend God’s love for us…the world will force us to become distracted and forget or downplay the magnitude of the Incarnation of Christ.
In the past few weeks, I have been preparing like several of you, to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And when people have asked me “how are you doing? How is it going?” My response has been the same: “Crazy” or “Busy”. This is the same response of so many during this Holy Time of Year.
“What are you up to this week?”
“I have to cook for 20 people for thanksgiving.”
“I have to buy gifts for my family.”
“I have a Christmas Concert to attend.”
“I have to decorate for our Christmas Party.”
We thank God for all of this hard work, because most of the extra obligations that we have during Advent are all done out of love. We take on the added responsibility of cooking because we love our family and want to be together. We buy gifts for people because we love them, and we love to see the joy of their faces when they open something on Christmas Day. We care and do things for others, because in each and every one of us lies the image of God…and no matter your race, color, religion, or creed, one of the wonderful things that all human beings innately share is the pleasure that comes from doing nice things for others.
All of these things are absolutely important and imperative during this time of the year, and they should all be encouraged…but not at the expense of our relationship with the Loving God.
Among the many benefits that the Church offers us during the advent fast, I think one of the most valuable ones is the importance of “stillness”. The services, the fasting, the added prayer rules…all of these are reminders to not get swept up in the silliness of the world during this time of year. Our spiritual lives act as the breaks to our runaway trains of life…and cause us to slow down...stop and smell the myrrh for a few minutes…and refocus on what is important.
I am reminded of a little toy that we use in our house that Matushka found on Pintrest. Whenever our kids have just a little bit too much energy…we have a little water bottle that is filled with glitter and glue. Lucy and Noah will shake up the bottle until all of the glitter swirls around…and then we sit in stillness, until all of the movement in the bottle stops…and the water once again becomes clear.
This children’s toy is truly a picture of what is needed during the Advent season. In order to fully appreciate and understand the purpose of the Nativity…in order to better see ourselves and our own weaknesses and passions…and in order to enter into full communion with our Loving Creator…we have to let all of that craziness…all of those distractions settle down to the bottom of our lives…allowing us to see God’s love more clearly.
This was one of the lessons that we learn from Rich man in today’s Gospel today. He had accumulated all of these blessings from God, and was so busy planning for how best to use them for himself…so blinded by taking it easy, eating, drinking, and being merry, that he wasn’t able to see clearly his own pride. For this, He was called by the almighty God, a “fool”, and eventually his soul was required of him and he went before the judgment seat unprepared.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let us strive this advent season not to be called a “fool” by our Lord. Let us not be blinded by all of the noise in our lives, and instead focus on gaining clarity for what the Incarnation means for our lives. If you have not already, practice a daily devotion to God, take a few minutes at the beginning and the end of your busy days to “let the glitter settle”, so that you able to see more clearly what your purpose is in this life.
Let us all refocus our energies…and re-prioritize our lives, so that it is God and the Church which are on top. Only then will we be able to see and reciprocate in our own small way, the Love that our Lord showed us when He came down from heaven, took on our fallen flesh, and was crucified so that we might have a better life and eternal joy in His everlasting Kingdom. Amen.