4th Advent B: Not Yet
Not there yet.
I know that many of you will be at a Mass tonight and will be opening some gifts tonight too.
I know that the Walmarts and Hallmarks of the world have been “doing Christmas” since October, and they are 48 hours from tearing down Christmas stuff and setting up Valentine’s Day.
But the Church says: "Wait. Not yet. Wait today a bit. I still have some things to tell you."
Take your time. There's lots of Advent graces still to take in.
Despite plenty of doomsday predictions from religious and secular sources alike, the world has not ended yet.
So now we're in no hurry. We can stop and soak in the spirit of preparing, listening, hoping, and reconciling.
From some, this waiting is easy.
For some this is hard.
Appreciating Advent isn't a virtue that develops overnight.
I like Advent—but I didn't when I was 8.
It grows on you.
I'm thankful though that we have it.
I like taking each Advent day one at a time—for two reasons.
1) My mom was good at it. And she gave that gift to us.
To be accurate, my mom was kind of an Advent Nazi.
She had a tremendous religious formation. She was surrounded by Franciscans sisters and brothers back home.
(Like Notre Dame sisters were around here for a long time.)
Both her aunt and uncle were Franciscans. She and her sister attended an all-girls Franciscan boarding school for high school, and her sister went on to join them and remains a Franciscan sister to this day.
And our home parish had both the friars and the sisters until about 1992.
So we did a very full Advent.
Didn't decorate the tree—heck, we didn't put up the tree—until about the 4th Sunday of Advent or December 20th, whichever came first.
And it worked. We found other stuff.
Some people move the Magi around the room since they take like five weeks to reach the stable. Well we moved everything!
When you don't have presents under a tree to stare at for a month you find other ways to entertain yourselves.
Mary and Joseph would start off on the bookshelf and work their way toward the stable as they journeyed from Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea.
The Magi started up the stairs and worked their way down, then across the top of the piano, and then on toward the stable.
Even the shepherds got moved about the coffee table which was their little pasture.
All of advent is counting things:
Candles on wreath.
Tear pff the pink and purple paper loops, one for each day.
Open windows on an advent calendar.
These things build up an Advent spirit.
Which brings me to the second reason I like treating each day as fully "Advent":
2) It builds up expectation and longing.
Each step of:
Setting up the manger,
doing charitable actions in the month before,
baking goodies for others,
even doing shopping,
going to confession,
finishing up school,
THEN the tree,
then the families gather...
all had honed our sense of expectation.
I'm sure I got more out of Christmas than most of my classmates, because we had such build-up and anticipation.
The Church wants us to take that time too. She says, "I have stories left to tell."
Today's gospel of Mary’s yes that get's the ball rolling.
Mary hears about Elizabeth's pregnancy and the very next line after our reading ends is "She went in haste to the hill country of Judea to wait on Elizabeth."
Gives us a sense that the season is not about ourselves.
And you know, we’re always compacting her 9 months of pregnancy anyway
What difference if we compact it to 24 hours instead of 7 days?
There is still fruit to be had in meditating on her carrying and holding Jesus.
The fourth candle says we are brim-full with expectation.
The empty manger says: I long to be filled with the savior. And so too do our hearts.
The Confession opportunities have abounded in the last few days to make that last preparation with our souls to make them like that manger.
It's still Advent, and there is still a little time to prepare.
Even as we say, “Soon he will be here! The Christ is coming soon.”
The very meaning of the word “soon” includes the idea “but not yet”.
So it’s true that we're ready, but we know we're not quite there.