“Rejoice in the Lord always”. This Third Sunday of Advent is day of joy. We rejoice the Christmas is near, but, we always rejoice because Jesus is a part of our lives everyday. It is easy to let Christ be important only on the Feast of Christmas. Unfortunately, for many, even Christ is left out of Christmas. The focus of rejoicing is in the gifts, the parties and stuff. For us Christians, we are joyful and rejoice because Jesus is alive in our hearts 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. By choosing Jesus everyday, our joy will not end, even when life gets difficult. Being a Christian is no guarantee that our lives will be easy; but, how we handle our struggles and difficulties will be different. We see in the manger scene….a place filled with the smell of animals and hay, a place hardly worth the birth of King, ….the dawn of salvation, the cause of our joy. As we quickly approach the feast of Christmas, may our hearts be filled with the a joy that we know year round. May the Christ whose birth we celebrate be the center of our lives and the cause of our joy.
How many of you have alerts on your cell phones? Depending on how you have it set up, you could be seeing something from the weather app, maybe something has happened in the world and whatever news app you follow is letting you know, maybe it(the cell phone) is telling you have an email ,text or something. These alerts can be very helpful, but they can also be annoying. I want to turn mine off sometimes and tell it to leave me alone…….I just don’t want to know
John the Baptist fills the role of an alert for us. “Get ready”. Prepare the way” “Something great is about to happen”……and, like the people John preached to, we can either listen or ignore it. Isaiah, in the first reading, is the alert for the people of Israel in the exile of Babylon. He basically tell the people: God is about to do something great. Comfort is coming, freedom is on the horizon, we are going home….A new Exodus is about to happen….God is going to marvelous things…..and the people of Israel had the same choice as the people of John’s day and us…..Listen to the alert and get ready or ignore it, don’t believe it, be pessimistic about it……
In Jesus, God did something great for the world that was never done before….the prophets looked for it and John pointed to it……..God sent His Son to proclaim the freedom of his people…this freedom was not from a foreign invader, but a freedom from sin, hopelessness, despair, even death itself. God was doing something great….he was taking flesh and walking among us….and showing us the way. God was stepping outside what was expected and John was the alert telling everyone to get ready….a new day was dawning, a new Exodus was about to happen, and God’s people would be free. The herald was a wild guy who shocked everyone; and Jesus was not the Messiah who would not restore a Kingdom with weapons and violence; the alert would not be the biggest army or the strongest guy; the alert that the Kingdom of God was here, would be the Cross on a hill outside Jerusalem and a empty tomb……and this alert continues to show us today…..”get ready” “prepare”, God is here now among us.
God has used the most unlikely through out history to show us the Cross and Tomb……one in particular was Juan Diego…..a poor Aztec Christian who was of no importance…he was a simple man who went out Dec 8 1540 to go to Mass for the Immaculate Conception. On his way there, the Blessed Mother appeared to him and asked that a chapel be built there. When he went to the Bishop(who was Spanish), he ignored him…..after going a few times, the Bishop said to bring him some proof…he went back to the Blessed Mother and on that hill, roses bloomed…remember it was December….he wrapped these in his tilma, his cloak, and brought them to the Bishop….when Juan unrolled his tilma…..the roses fell out and there on the tilma was the image of Guadalupe….the image here in church …. And Juan’s tilma still hangs in the basilica in Mexico City…..since 1540….
Juan was the most unlikely person to give an alert about God’s love and care through His Mother….yet, God chose him….the image is also an alert….Mary does not look European, she has the features of an Aztec woman, clothed in the clothes of the poor, and is pregnant…waiting to give birth to the one who John the Baptist told the world to prepare for.
My brothers and sister, it would be great if God would send us a plain text alert that he was here…..but, the alerts are in the people we meet, especially the most vulnerable and in the most unlikely people, and the alerts in the events of our lives when we open up our eyes and see God, no matter what.
So, let us open our hearts this second week of Advent and let God send us a message to be written there…I am always here and now, in and through you, I do something new; I am alive in you.