Bishop’s message for December and Advent: Christmas Gifts

Let’ see now, we’ve already had “Black Friday.” It’s come and gone. The term Black Friday is used by media and marketing folks to designate the day after Thanksgiving, when the stores have their items for sale at a discount price.  The traffic circle and mall filled with cars and trucks, chaos from dawn to dusk. That one day of binge buying has expanded in recent years. “Black Friday sales” were advertised this year before Thanksgiving Day was celebrated.

As lots of us have begun shopping online, the online vendors created Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after our national day of thanksgiving to God and after our national holy day of shopping (Black Friday). On Cyber Monday, there were discounts available with the click of the computer mouse. Then, following Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there is Giving Tuesday…an opening for generosity and selflessness, as we are encouraged to support institutions that build up the common good.

You might ask me: How has this mention of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday have ANYTHING to do with December and the expectant season of Advent? Well . . . everything . . . but the connection between these civic and marketplace holidays and Advent requires us to ponder the purpose of Advent and its power to refresh our minds and hearts.

Through THE gift of God’s revelation, Jesus of Nazareth, we have come to know him as the fulfillment of the Promise given to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses and David. Through this gift of grace you and I now live a life of faith in the Lord Jesus as his Church. Our Christ-centered Catholic formation tells us that the Crucified and Risen Lord commissioned his chosen Apostles to continue the ministry of Reconciliation, the mission of redeeming all of humanity. The Cross has won the victory over the Evil One, over sin and death. This truth must now be shared with all of humanity, in obedience to the word of the Savior–to make disciples of all (Matthew 28:18-20).

The global Church that we are members of, the Catholic Church that we love and are dedicated to, serves as an instrument of the Redemption won in that obedient love which is seen in the Good Friday sacrifice of the Lamb. To renew humanity through this gift of grace, the successors of the Apostles use liturgical prayer and the liturgical year to carry out our formation in Christ the Lord.

Each liturgical year of God’s grace recognizes two pivotal seasons: the season of Christmas, the incarnation, as the living God taking on our flesh and blood, as the Father’s Son is born to us. This season of the Nativity leads us to ponder the purpose of his birth, recognized in the passion of the Lord and resurrection, as Jesus is shown to be the Priest and the Lamb of sacrifice, for the sins of the world and as the Victor over sin and death. Both of these pivotal seasons are anticipated with a time of prayer and expectation. The season of Easter is preceded by holy Lent. The season of the Nativity or Christmas is preceded by Advent.

So, how do Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday connect us to the purpose of this season of Advent? We are created in the image and likeness of God as loving, dependent creatures, as the Creator gives life to us and to all things. We are created to be men and women that live lives of thanksgiving. Each day of life is Thanksgiving Day. And, as the Image and Likeness of the living God, we are created to seek the good of all, to serve the common good of all…for we are in relationship with all as God is relational love–a dynamic love of Father and Son and Spirit. Yet, though this is the truth of our true selves, we have been effected by disobedience (our own and others), and often strive only to please ourselves, only to store up goods for ourselves, to live self-referential lives. Though we are the reflection of the living God, selfishness (disobedience) is at war with our true selves. The crassness that can be seen in the marketing and the living out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday hides our true selves, as lovingly dependent creatures of the Lord.

ADVENT is a season of reflection and preparation and hope: We remember that we were created for love but have turned away through disobedience. We remember that God answered this disobedience with such a Christmas gift–the Nativity of his Son, born to redeem us and restore us. We remember the birth in Bethlehem and reflect on how we have lived that truth day by day and ponder that promised adventus–the coming of the Lord in Glory and the Kingdom–and our place in that reign.

What has been given: the Nativity and redeemed life in him. What is to come: when we stand before God and respond to the question. So, how have you lived my gift of life? Advent is the season to prepare our hearts as gifts for the common good of all . . . as a response to the gift of Jesus . . . as a longing to love as God loves . . . to live for God and for neighbor . . . the anointed life . . . the Christian life.

AMDG

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
(For The Greater Glory of God)