As we enter into the holy season of Advent, a time of waiting with eager expectation for Christmas, we ask ourselves what this waiting means in our family.
Is it waiting to celebrate a feast day, the 25th December, birthday of Jesus? Is the emphasis on celebration or on the arrival of Jesus into our hearts, homes and relationships?
Children wait for Christmas sweets, Santa Claus, gifts, Christmas tree, a party, decorating the home, new clothes and special food. We are all children at heart. Of course we also make a Christmas confession, go to midnight Mass, visit the crib, sing carols and exchange greeting cards. The day comes and goes in a flurry of activities and we wait for next year's celebrations. How did we share Jesus with each other?
We also wait for many things and perhaps make novenas, intercessory prayer, hoping that God will listen to our requests and work a miracle to give us what we want. Why can't he be a Santa Claus who grants our requests!! Are these on your secret list to Santa-God?
We want our children to study hard, do well in exams, become healthy, act responsibly like grown-ups, listen to us and skip adolescent upheavals. Why is he so scatter-brained? Why is she so self-centred? Why can't they be like those model children we meet or read about?
We want our husbands to work hard, earn well, be kind, loving, considerate, understanding, unselfish, generous and sober and take St Joseph as their model. When are they going to measure up to our expectations?
We want our wives to be gentle, soft-spoken, quiet, patient, hard working, well organized, patient and prayerful like Mother Mary. We would like them also to be available and cooperative whenever we husbands need loving.
We want all the conveniences, comforts and security that others seem to enjoy. We want freedom from illness, pain and uncertainty.
Sure Jesus told us to ask and we will receive, to seek and we will find, to knock and the door will be opened to us. Intercessory prayer and novenas are perfectly acceptable forms of prayer. But are we upset and impatient, when our prayers are not heard instantly and in the way we want?
Have you heard about the miraculous Chinese bamboo tree, in Stephen Covey's bookThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. "After the seed for this amazing tree is planted, you see nothing, absolutely nothing, for four years except for a tiny shoot coming out of a bulb. During these four years, all the growth is underground in a massive, fibrous root structure that spreads deep and wide in the earth. But then in the fifth year the Chinese bamboo tree grows up to eighty feet! Many things in family life are like the Chinese bamboo tree. You work and you invest time and effort, and you do everything you can possible to nurture growth, and sometimes you don't see anything for weeks, months and even years. But if you're patient and keep working and nurturing, that "fifth year" will come, and you will be astonished at the growth and change you see taking place."
What we wait for and expect does not happen most times. Did Joseph expect Mary, his fiancée to become pregnant before marriage by the power of the Holy Spirit? Did Mary expect Joseph to understand? Did Mary and Joseph expect Jesus to be born in a cattle shed? Did they expect him to be in the temple teaching the doctors of the law, at the age of twelve? Did they expect him to spend 30 years in Nazareth working as a carpenter? Did Mary expect Jesus to die upon a cross after three years of glorious ministry? They were poor people who learned to wait for God to reveal His will, while doing whatever they could.
"In his time, he makes all things beautiful in his time." we sing. But do we believe that He has a time and a plan for everything. He has infinite patience with each one of his children. As we look back at our own lives we can see how patient God was with our slow rate of growth. Jesus was so patient with his disciples. Even though He was with them constantly and by his example and instructions showed them God's plan, they were so slow in understanding, accepting and following it. We are not very different and if they could become great saints, so will we, hopefully, in his time.
Like instant coffee and high-speed technology we may expect everything and every person to bow to our control, but in vain. Advent is a time of waiting patiently. Life is all about waiting. There are seasons in the year. There are laws of growth. Human persons grow in an atmosphere of faith and love. Is there such an atmosphere in our homes? Make our homes domestic Churches where God is present through our love for one another. This love must be in practical deeds and not only in words.
Let us prepare for Christmas this year in prayer, participating in the Eucharist, listening to God's Word and receiving and living the sacraments everyday.
Live as God's children and respect yourself and each one as a child of God and a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit. See Jesus in others especially the least of his brethren.
Be aware of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in your life and allow Him to guide, heal, lead and protect you. Let him pray "Abba Father" in your heart and life.
Be reconciled with each other and forgive one another from your hearts.
Be broken and poured out in love to give life to others.
Be channels of life and love to each other as bride and bridegroom everyday and to your children.
Be agents of God's healing love to one another by word and touch.
The Advent wreath, the Christmas tree, the crib, carols, cake and candles are symbols of Jesus entering into and dispelling the darkness of sin in our lives. We share the joy and love and peace that He brings to us in family celebrations of his birthday. We see each other through his eyes as other Christ's. We patiently pray:
to reach out and touch him; to say that I love him.
Open my ears Lord; help me to listen.
Open my eyes Lord; I want to see Jesus."
My we meet him, not only in the Eucharist but also in the other members of our family, as the shepherds met the Savior of the world in the babe of Bethlehem.