2nd Sunday of Advent
Just 16 days left before Christmas. Some people are very organized; they have bought their Christmas presents already. I suspect that most haven’t. In the meantime we have the general election which will take our minds off Christmas for a while. The result, whichever way it goes, may spoil some peoples’ Christmas. Should we Catholics be concerned about the result; I hope the answer is obvious; of course we should. The result could bring about the biggest change in this country since the second world war. But you know, there is a bigger picture. Even if we leave Europe life will go on; the sun will rise the next day.
We should be concerned about the future of our country but there is something more important than the general election, and that is our preparation for Christmas. Now that might seem that I am out of touch with reality; surely nothing is more important than the election. Well, I am not saying it isn’t important, just that preparation for Christmas is more so. And I don’t mean shopping for presents but something much more personal; our own preparation. Because if we get it right it will affect not only the way we enjoy Christmas but the rest of our lives.
Now the preaching of John the Baptist can seem as far away from our present reality as you can get. All we hear these days is the preaching of our politicians. But today, here in this church, we have listened to the message of John the Baptist, and that isn’t political, it’s not to win votes, or to gain power. Rather, it is a message for life. There is a slogan, isn’t there; you often see it on the back of cars: “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. Well, the message of John the Baptist, is similar: it’s not just for Christmas it’s for life. John tells us to “repent” and to “prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight”. So, why should this be so relevant to us 2000 years later? Because it is a message of eternal value.
As we prepare for Christmas it is so easy to neglect ourselves, and by that I mean our spiritual selves. If we really want to enjoy Christmas, the birth of Christ, then we should prepare ourselves spiritually. I am sure that many of you like me, enjoyed Christmas as children; it was a magic time. Many a parent or grandparent today enjoys Christmas through the eyes of their children. There is a simplicity and innocence about being a child that we adults often lose. When we grow out of childhood we lose our innocence and become much more complicated and often unhappy. John the Baptist is saying that you can rediscover that innocence by “preparing a way for the Lord”. What he means by “preparing a way” is to get rid of all the obstacles in our hearts that can get in the Lord’s way as He comes to us. And the biggest obstacles are our sins. It is our sins that make us unhappy and cynical and selfish. It is our sins that prevent us from enjoying Christmas as we did as children.
So this is the deal: this Advent go to confession. Tell the priest your sins. Don’t be ashamed if you haven’t been for years; many Catholics have stopped going to confession. I sat in the confessional the other day for an hour and hardly anyone came. If you do sincerely confess your sins then I guarantee that your Christmas will be jollier: you will be at peace with yourself and with God. There can be no better present that you can give to yourself this Christmas.