As this second post-COVID winter extends its icy grasp over the United States, it’s hard to muster thoughts that are joyous and cheerful. Many of us have family members that are seriously ill, the economy is in the toilet, and there are few signs that anything is going to change for the better in the new year! On the surface, there is very little to be joyous about.
Christ has promised to return
As Christmas draws near and Advent draws to a close, the one thought that warms my heart and gives me the courage to write Christmas cards and extend Christmas greetings to those I encounter is Christ’s promise of returning and ushering in the New Creation. This Advent, like no other, my heart is cheered by the thought that Our Lord promised His disciples to return, and that, upon His return, He would usher in powerfully the New Creation: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Advent, as a season in the Church, is generally a season for preparing for the Christmas and Epiphany solemnities. It’s time to look back nostalgically to God’s gift to the world of a Redeemer, to the Christ Child laid in a manger, poor and defenseless — yet humanity’s redemption! It’s time to recall the Magi making their visit to the Holy Family after completing their perilous journey across the arid wastes from lands far east of Bethlehem.
Christmas lights and struggling
(Photo of the man: Alamy)
These nostalgic ruminations of the past, commonplace during Advents of bygone years, would give a man a joyous mood and a cheerful demeanor. Yet so many of the old rituals of Advent — putting up a Christmas Tree, arranging the various figurines of the crèche, stringing lights on the house, baking Christmas delicacies — that in years past would invigorate my heart and give a bounce to my step, this year give me no comfort. Why bother with pulling the Christmas tree out of the attic and detangling the lights when relatives are afraid to travel because of the new COVID variant. Not to mention the price of travel, which has reached record highs! Why spend time putting up a tree when no one will see it except for me?
As we draw to the very end of Advent this year, instead of focusing on the old rituals of bygone Advents, when gas was cheap and Christmas delicacies didn’t go directly to your waistline, focus instead on the lectionary readings for daily Masses for these last two weeks of Advent, which speak directly of how Our Lord, the Christ, in the fullness of time, will usher in the New Creation. If your Advent this year was anything like mine, a little blue and melancholy, spend some time prayerfully reflecting on the many Old Testament readings for the last days of Advent, which foretell what Our Lord will accomplish in the fullness of time.
Suggested passages to reflect on are Isaiah 45: 6–25, Isaiah 54:1–10, Isaiah 56:1–8, Jeremiah 23:5–8, Song of Songs 2:8–14, Zephaniah 3:14–18 and Malachi 3:1–4, 23–24.
For starters, spend a moment and let the words of Zephaniah the prophet ring in your ears:
Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! 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. On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem: Fear not, O Zion; be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in His love. He will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals (Zephaniah 3:14–18).
Hope is a powerful bulwark against the darkness that has enveloped the earth. Men and women can withstand even the worst of torments and trials that come their way when they have hope.
This Christmas season, let that bulwark, hope, dispel all doubt and despair. Christ’s promised return is imminent: Let that thought permeate your mind and dispel the worry that any of the evils playing out are permanent. They are not! And in the end, there will be justice! The evildoers in this fallen world will be banished from the New Creation, and only those who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb” (Revelation 7:14) will be part of the New Creation.