The fourth week of Advent can be the most difficult to reflect upon. This is the time when things may be the busiest and most harried with last minute details that need attending. It is also the time when we have been reflecting on so many Advent images (if we have been able at all) that we are tempted to throw our hands up and shout, "Just bring on Christmas already! Let's get to the point!" But are we really ready, or are we simply raising the white flag amidst our weariness given the lateness of the season? In a perfect world we would truly be spiritually ready for the feast of the Nativity of the Lord. But if the world was perfect we would not need Jesus to come, would we? And this is precisely why it is the most important time of the entire season: we do need Jesus. We need Him badly. And maybe we are ready, though our reasons are not the purest. But then again, we are ready. Therefore these last few days in this shortest of the Advent weeks are really the most poignant of them all. We need Jesus to come into our hearts in a new way to heal that which is most wounded, to revitalize that which is weariest, to bring light to that which is darkest, and to bring joy to that which is dimmest.
Therefore in meditating during these last few days, we are called into the simplicity of it all. Despite all the theological, liturgical fussing within our hearts and minds, and despite what we know to be beyond our understanding as to how the King of Creation comes as a tiny baby, it is all really quite simple. It is about love, pure and transparent. To make it about anything else is to miss the point entirely. For example, in the reading from 2 Samuel 7 in the 4th Advent Sunday liturgy we hear that King David wanted to build a house (temple) for the Lord. Through the prophet Nathan we receive God’s response along with the king: God does not want a building, but rather He wants something greater from David. He wants David to receive a gift, but it is one that will need attention and nurturing. What God is giving is not just for David. It is for all of us. The gift is that the Messiah will come and that He will be a descendent of David.
Charlie Brown had it right: it is about a nearly bare Christmas tree with one red ornament. Or to translate to the truth of the season: it is about a nearly bare stable with the attention being put on the Lord, not on the condition of the surroundings. That red Christmas ornament put a strain on the tree until it was shored up with Linus’ blanket, (for those who do not remember the scene.) In the real Nativity scene, the baby will be supported by the love of Mary and Joseph, and soon afterward the shepherds, kings…and you and me. We need to ready our hearts for the baby to come into that manger. He will eventually ask a lot of us. He will ask us to love the way He loves. But He will also give us what we need to do so. In these last days of Advent we need to reflect upon what that means. How can we prepare for such a love? How can we prepare to make a response to such a love? In what way have we made it so complex that we are missing the point God is trying to make? And how can we let Him strip away the distractions so that we can truly be ready to receive?
©Michele L. Catanese
The photos are mine. Yes, I do have a 'Charlie Brown Christmas tree.' Thanks to Charles M. Schulz for creating such a treasure of wisdom as he gave us in the Peanuts strip for so long.
The painting of King David is the Westminster Psalter David. You can find it at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Westminster_Psalter_David.jpg
The icon is one of the many icons written by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It is called Mother of the Incarnate Word. I love it for meditation during Advent because it is clear that Mary is pregnant. If you are interested in obtaining a copy it can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-the-incarnate-word-william-hart-mcnichols.html