Reflection for Wednesday, December 6, 2006: 1st week in Advent.

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Schlegel, John, S.J.
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Advent themes abound in today's readings. Initially, however, my mind's eye is momentarily distracted by the Feast of St. Nicholas. Growing up in a family that participated in this festival that allowed us to have candy just once before Christmas was a source of great joy in a household of six kids, unless, of course, your shoe housed a potato or a piece of coal! My second sister's birthday was the following day, as was my mother's and grandmother's, so our house was always filled with child-like anticipation. In retrospect, the pieces of hard candy and fruit far out numbered the pieces of coal! And the birthday cake the next day eased the sweet fast as we marched towards Christmas! The anticipation of my childhood was more advent-like than I knew at the time.|Advent teaches us about waiting. None of us like to wait-watch our impatience at a red light or a check out line at Wal-Mart! But on reflection, everything we long for involves waiting-we wait to be born, wait to grow up, to graduate, and to get a job; we wait to fall in love, we wait to die. We wait for Christmas! |Isaiah knew what waiting was all about. The Jewish people waited for centuries for the Messiah, and, indeed, still wait. Great is the expectation in Isaiah's prophecy: God will come and provide for all peoples; he will provide a feast of rich food and choice wines; he will destroy death forever; the Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces and the reproach of his people will be removed. What exhilarating expectations... but not yet! For the expectation of the Old Testament is about delayed gratification. Yes, God will visit his people, but not yet. The Jewish people wait in expectation. And we attend to Advent, to our waiting for the return of the Christ.|Advent waiting, amidst Christmas preparations, intensifies yearning and, in that, it teaches us patience. It invites us to trust God; the God who as our shepherd provides all we will ever need. Read today's Psalm 23 slowly and reflect on your needs in the here and now.| What are your expectations for today, the Advent season, and the rest of the year?| What are your expectations and needs for self, for family, friends, colleagues and co-workers?|What are your expectations from your church or your political leaders or international organizations? Recall, "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want...." |Advent waiting also intensifies joy. In today's Gospel the people are filled with wonder and amazement and joy when they saw "the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel." Why? Because they believed in their hearts that the Messiah had come; that centuries of waiting was fulfilled; divine expectations were realized.|When we have to wait for something, our joy is enhanced when we finally receive the object of our waiting. Born out of waiting and anticipation, delayed gratification increases the gratification. That is an important aspect of the Advent of the Christ.|We know this annual Advent discipline of waiting, expectation and anticipation will nurture within us the response echoed by Isaiah: "Behold our God...this is the Lord for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!" |Indeed, our Advent waiting intensifies as daily we move closer to the fulfillment of our deepest hopes and discover afresh "The Lord for whom we looked..."
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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