John the Baptist is a towering figure in Advent. In fact he dominates the gospel of last week and this week. Last week we got a good description of him, his dress, his food, and we heard him in full flow. This week he is in prison, and whilst his conviction and courage are very much intact, and yet…..yet he seeks reassurance, most especially from Jesus. I find the passage in today’s Gospel very beautiful, and moving. We have from Jesus himself a beautiful insight into the values of his kingdom, and what happens in this world when the same kingdom begins to take root. It is not an accident that the Church puts John before us as a key part or our  Advent journey. John is bold and different and brave and beautiful. John is also challenging, uncompromising, strong and relentless. In the best sense of the word he is truly prophetic. He bridges the old and the new, including the old and new testaments. John, foretells, and warns and heralds. John leaves us with no excuse but to get ready. Of course Mary has her special waiting in Advent. Joseph too waits. The world waits afresh. However our waiting is given a unique backdrop with the Baptist. If we can hear and digest the words of John then our waiting will be fundamentally changed. The waiting itself is changed, as for example it is now no longer a passive time, but rather an active preparation. The change does not stop there though. Our longing, our expectation is also changed. We have a focus. Our focus is Jesus, the fulfilment of all expectation. In Jesus, in the incarnation of Jesus, nothing will be the same again. I hope these two poems of mine, capture something of this.

WAITING
Drumming fingers on the table,
Toe tapping, where is that bus?
The waiting room busy
With exhausted magazines,
Our waiting is different,
Ssh, listen is that him?
My alb clad arms flapping
Alex, five year old veteran, asks
Can you fly?
Quick look, is that him?
Yes, our waiting is different,
We wait excitedly,
We weed our souls,
We look up,
We wait for
Lord, Saviour,
Brother, Friend
We wait in the dark
We wait in the cold,
We wait for the Light,
We wait for the Light
No Darkness Can Quench.
Sixty-one years young Rita
At the fourth child-burial in three years,
Her hand over my heart whispers
‘Mary brings them to Jesus’

THE SENTRY
Your turn, waken up,
Stay awake,
We are community
Some sleep,
Some dream,
Some nightmare
In darkness
My turn to sleep,
Waken me when he arrives
We are community
End of Waiting,
Who knows when,
Waken me, Tell me
All is changed when he comes,
Fear not so awful,
Cold not so cold –
Even Death weakened
Up! Quick! Waken!
Stand up…He is near,
Very near to us
We are Community.

In Advent we can make changes. Advent allows us to mould and shape our Christmas. In these Advent days we can make it our best Christmas preparation yet. It is within our power to put Christ at the centre of both Advent and Christmas, both for ourselves and those closest to us. What type of cards do we send? Where will we place our crib? Where and when will we go to confession? How much can I give to the less well off? Perhaps through St. Vincent de Paul? How will we make it a special time, spiritually? Will there be any sacred silence in my Advent? My Christmas? Is there anyone I know is likely to struggle this Christmas? What am I, as a follower of Jesus going to do about this? Would there be any time between Christmas Day and the Epiphany, January 6th, when I might visit a few cribs and say a little prayer, perhaps I could bring my grandchildren? Would there be an opportunity in my Christmas reading and/or viewing when I might opt for some soul food? There is a very real sense in which our happy and holy Christmas arises directly out of a gentle and reflective Advent. Maybe this is key, or at least maybe it’s worth pondering for a moment:

Could it be that with some of the Advent preparation highlighted above, we might end up, this year, having one of
our more meaningful and special Christmas celebrations in years?

 


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