Monday, December 23, 2013

A Homily for a Few Days Before Christmas

We wait for Jesus

Little children wait for Jesus in the manger.  They long for Christmas.  They start even now to dream of twinkling lights and brightly colored presents, of the smell of fresh Christmas trees and incense, of the feeling of trying to stay awake at Midnight Mass, of the food and the friends and the Christmas carols.

Children wait for Jesus to be placed in the manger: for him to be born as a little child, just like them.  

Years ago, when the son of one of my oldest friends had just turned three years old (he was at that age when we first appropriate the idea of time) his mother made the mistake of telling him: Just imagine, Sean...soon it will be Christmas!

An hour passed, and little Sean returned from his play...Is it Christmas yet? he asked. No, Sarah, told him. Not for another four weeks.   It’s not Christmas yet.

Fifteen minutes passed.  And Sean was back, tugging at her skirt.  Is it Christmas yet? he asked a bit more insistently.  No Sean, I told you it’s not for another four weeks.  And then she thought for a moment how she would explain four weeks, but soon gave up the hope.

Fifteen minutes later he returned, tugging and whining and almost in tears.  Is it Christmas now?  he demanded.  No, Sarah told him.  And then she swooped him up in her arms, dried his tears, and asked softly: You really want it to be Christmas Sean.  You want Jesus to come right now, don’t you?  Yes...the words shot out of him as from a canon...I want Jesus to come right now!  So do I Sarah, said softly.  So do I.

Indeed, the further we get into the last half of life, the more we wait for Jesus in a whole other way.  

The actuarial tables project that I will die in 21.48 years.  That’s 7,482 days and 8 hours.  Not that I’m counting.   

But I am waiting.  I’m waiting each time I get a new twinge or something else stops working or I read one more obituary of someone younger than myself.

And how do we wait for him?  We wait with patience, with longing and with the clear conviction that what he has planned for us is greater than our wildest dreams, that nothing can surpass the beauty of his face or the wonder of the dwelling he has prepared for us in the eternity of his love.

But I also have no doubt that the waiting will not always be easy.  The love God offers us as we age is often in the form of a cross, or of sacrifice, or some other imitation of his love for us.  But the great consolation is not that waiting for God gets easier with age, but that we no longer wish to break the appointment.

And so we wait, and we pray.  For "to pray means to wait for the God who comes. every prayer-filled day sees a meeting with him; every night which we faithfully put at his disposal is filled with his presence.”

And what more could we ask for, but to be counted worthy to wait in joyful hope, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.