Reflection for Sunday – November 27, 2022

Readings: Isaiah 2: 1-5; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44 
Preacher: Gloria Ulterino

 As often happens, this homily took on a life of its own.  Unbidden.  It was the joyful light of today’s First Reading from Isaiah that initially captivated my heart.  Immediately I was back on a pilgrimage to Israel some 15 years ago, in the balmy springtime.  Specifically, at the home—just outside Jerusalem—of Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah, the priest.  Joyfully going up… up… and up yet again, to their home.  Then turning around, and gasping at the magnificent view before me.

That’s where I started.  But then, the Gospel took me someplace else.  To a much darker place, not unlike the darkness of this time of the year, in the northern hemisphere.  To a challenging place.  A questioning place.  For Advent is upon us, once again.  True enough, it is a beginning time.  Of another Church year.  And a birthing time, of Jesus, once upon a time, long ago.  But most of all, it’s a birthing time for each of us.  A time of being confronted with this question: to whom, and to what, will we give birth?  In effect, what matters most to each of us?

Hmmm.  How best to answer this very important question?  And then, a man came to mind.  A man I had recently seen on the PBS news: Michael Gerson.  As it happens, he died November 17 of cancer at age 58.  A newspaper columnist with The Washington Post, he was tenderly remembered by his editor, though she often disagreed with his conservative views.  “He wrote like an angel,” she lovingly noted.  And she recounted the many challenges he faced because of depression, Parkinson’s disease, and finally, cancer.  Ultimately, however, he had discovered what really mattered to him: his faith.  And he did his best to live it out.

 Ah, the challenge for each of us, as we enter another year.  Another Advent.  Another opportunity to do our best.  To live our best.  To make the most of the time we have left, totally unaware of exactly what that might be.

 Indeed, this beautiful season comes with a built-in challenge.  It always seems so short, doesn’t it?  Even though this year it’s the longest it will ever be—a full 28 days- because of how the calendar falls.  I don’t know about you, but so often I’m tempted with busyness.  Do I have cookies to bake?  Cards to write out?  Gifts to purchase, especially ones that are “just right” for the recipients?  How can I do it all?

 Here’s a more important question.  Can we put that aside for the moment?  Rather, given that we don’t know the day or the hour of God’s ultimate coming in our lives, can we reflect on what really matters?  Can we each pause… and savor … the profound reality of giving birth to Christ in our very own precious lives?  Right now.  This very Advent.  Before it slips away.

 How about this?  How about considering ourselves on the essential pilgrimage of life itself, not unlike our ancient ancestors in faith.  Are we listening intently for whispers of peace?  Trustworthy peace.  Where, in the midst of our particular lives, is that peace to be found?  Are we willing to beat our swords into plowshares?  To leave behind our categories of “us” and “them”?  All the while, are we longing to create ultimate meaning and purpose out of so many shards of broken pieces, maybe even broken promises?

What might that look like?  Let me simply offer one suggestion.  Perhaps, like me, you look for the glimmers of light, wherever they might be found.  In the neighborhood, as people, one by one, set out their lights for the season.  In friends and family, focusing on the gift of each and every person who brings some measure of joy.  In our own home, setting up lights on our own Christmas tree.  Our tree is getting smaller, but still, it must have some lights.  So it is that I simply enjoy turning on these lights, first thing every dark morning, and then quietly inviting them to speak to me about what matters most.

 Yes, Advent can serve as a time of genuine gestation.  Even true labor.  Will we get stuck in busyness?  Or, can we stay focused on the genuine joy of this season?  Can we, each of us, male and female alike, take on the labor of birthing what matters most: the coming of Jesus, the Christ, in each of our gifted, treasured lives?  For we—each and every one of us—are the beloved of God.

Gloria Ulterino
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