Posts Tagged ‘Joyful Expectation’

Joyful Expectation

Thursday, December 6th, 2012


Advent Reflection Service

Dc. Larry Brockman

Are you joyful!  You see, it’s Advent, the season when we are supposed to be in joyful expectation of the coming of Christ.  Or are you in panic to get everything done and don’t have time for the joy of the season?  Do you even have a spare moment to think about what it all means?  There are cards to do, parties to go to, gifts to buy, recitals to attend, lights and trees to put up, baking to be done, and on and on.  And these are all things that we need and even like to do.  But when you get right down to it, this season is supposed to be all about preparing for Christmas in joyful expectation.  We owe it to ourselves to seek out and find out what that it really means for us to be in joyful expectation and how the coming of the Christ child can change our lives.   

Tonight, we have tried to put aside all of the clutter of the season and focus on the story of the Incarnation.  For the last half hour, you have heard the story about the promise of a Messiah and how God fulfilled that promise.  Hopefully, we have your attention.  So let’s reflect on what we heard before we walk back out there into the secular world, and see if we can learn from it because all of us want the coming of Christ to bring us Joy, peace, and happiness rather than strife, exhaustion, disappointment, and debt.  And the whole reason for practicing religion is for us to better our relationship with God.   

The people of the Old Testament had been scattered to the East and the West.  They wanted to go home; they wanted to go back to Jerusalem.  They wanted their own Kingdom restored.  And they were looking for earthly prosperity.  They must have felt like most of us feel about our country today; we want a return to the good old days of prosperity.   

The Old Testament prophet in the first reading is giving them hope.  But it is not the kind of hope they were looking for.  Because the prophet promises a Messiah will be born, a tiny child, one who is to be their savior.  This hope was too vague; too remote for them.  What are you looking for this Christmas?  When the Christ Child comes, will He fulfill your hope?  You see, that hope really isn’t fulfilled in the gifts you get; and it may not be fulfilled by your other worldly hopes either.  To find hope in Jesus, you have to look deeper.   

Now Jesus, the Messiah, came to us under the most humbling of circumstances.  He was born in a manger; and was attended by poor shepherds and farmers.  It was in Bethlehem in the remote and lonely hills of Israel.  Jesus did not come amongst the world’s favorites.  He did not receive pomp and ceremony from the world.  He did not bring into the world the peace and resolution that the people wanted in the way they expected it.  Rather, He came to rescue the world from the prevailing wisdom of the day.  Are you looking for some bursts of worldly wisdom, some miracles that will make all of your worldly problems go away?  Because the real gift of the Christ child is different than that.  It is simplicity and humility and inward.  It is an inner knowing, a transformation of the heart.  That’s what Jesus came for- to transform our hearts and to show us a different way through the Gospel.   

Now St. Paul tells us something that is truly unique about our Faith-  that Jesus Christ is God made man.  That is the essence of what we call the Incarnation-  that God became one of us, and was incarnate as a human being.  Nobody else teaches that, not the Eastern Religions, not the Moslems, not the Jews, not the Buddhists, not the Hindus, and none of the new age religions either.  None of them teaches that God came and dwelled among us to show us the way once and for all; and to give us an example and to redeem all of us in a single act of saving self-sacrifice.   Only Christianity teaches that God became man by sending His only son amongst us.  And therein lays the secret to our joy- the Incarnation holds that secret.  We don’t have to wonder what the words in sacred books mean;  or try to decode some esoteric wisdom of a guru; or cower before a transcendent super being in fear.  We know that ours is a loving God who came and dwelled amongst us,   Jesus who was and is close to us, and showed us by His example, the Gospel, what it takes to live a life pleasing to God. 

But is that how we are patterning our lives, after the Gospel?  Because this is the perfect time of the year to ponder on that and find the key to living a God centered life for ourselves.   

Notice that God did something else.  He brought our wonderful savior Jesus to us through the normal process of birth.  He did not miraculously send Jesus into this world.  Jesus was born of a woman, Mary.  And Mary showed us that she understood the essence of what it means to live a God-centered life.  Yes, Mary understood what the key was by saying yes to her call by the Lord, and giving up whatever ambitions she may have had.   

Have you heard that call?  It can come in many different forms and at almost any stage of life-  a burning urge to make a difference;  taking care of an aged relative or family member; children and their many special needs; or a call to service in the Church.  It can even come in the form of using a talent you have to the fullest extent. 

Sometimes it is hard to hear that call in the humdrum of the normal flow of life.  We have to take some time out, and just be still and listen.  Yet there is a benefit in hearing and responding to the call; because when you respond to God’s call, there is a great feeling of inner joy and peace.   

That brings us to the ultimate reason for all of our joy- the coming glory that we will experience when we enter the Kingdom of God.  We get a sense of that glory in reading that describes the birth of Jesus and the visit of the angels to the shepherds.   We hear of the glory of the Lord, and the joy and celebration of the choirs of angels.  Because this is so foreign to us, we can be cynical.  The joys of this life are all we experience.  But this life ends- and this first hand Gospel report of the heavenly host and things that will be just seems too good to be true.  And yet, it is what we believe.  We either believe the whole Gospel, or all of it is nonsense to us.   

The shepherds believed, because they saw, they experienced, the glory of the Lord and so, they went to see the baby Jesus, and the story by the angels was validated for them.  Imagine what those shepherds must have experienced.  A crazy, unlikely story by an other-worldly angelic figure, followed by a heavenly chorus of angels.  It must have seemed like a dream.  But then, they saw the baby Jesus, just as the Angel predicted and realized that the unlikely story was true.  Now seeing is believing; and that’s what happened to the shepherds.  They must have been in ecstatic joy having seen the glory of the Lord that they had just been promised a share in.  We, on the other hand, are called upon to accept all this on faith based on the Gospel story and the traditions of our Church.  But our share in the glory is real; and it is what our faith is all about.     

Yes, Jesus is the light of the world.  He was from the beginning; and will be forever.  He has come to give all of us the gift of also becoming children of God for those who believe, and follow Jesus,   Our reward is the joy and happiness of the Kingdom, of God, and a share in the Glory of God.  And that is what we await in joyful expectation!