How would our own lives, and life in general, be different if we remembered that life’s greatest hour was when God became a man, a child? We would not approach one another, stand before on another so demandingly, and violently, and greedily. Children do not inflict such wounds. We want to be so great and mighty, so grown up and competent. We ourselves, and the heap of ruble that is left to us, are the outcome of this attitude.
-Father Alfred Delp, Priest & Martyr
Happy Advent! It is the time a year when the pace of life picks up: the shoppers are out, the men of the house plot to “one up” their neighbors with Christmas lights, lists are being made, trips are being planned and most students are preparing for the end of the semester. What a crazy time!
It is interesting to reflect on what this time of year brings out in us. For most, life really does get busier. It is a race against the clock to complete last minute school work, to make plans for break and to spend time with family and friends. In addition, no one can argue that shopping consumes the holidays. The evidence we have of that is that a man was actually killed over the weekend while shopping at a New York Wal Mart. That point probably stands on its own. More so, the decorations are going up, Santa is the star of the show, and everyone is looking forward to the season’s culmination with a quick trip to church, the opening of presents and more excessively large meals to share. That perhaps sums up the time before Christmas for most people. So here is the striking question. How will Advent be different for you this year than last year? Or will it just be more of the same?
Each column over the next four weeks will be a part of an Advent series titled, “Life’s Greatest Hour.” I will prayerfully propose how this year, Advent can be different for all of us. With open hearts, let us gaze upon the Lord in the manager and learn about ourselves and the journey we are on.
Someone I know told me a story that truly opened my eyes. She is a Catholic psychologist and on one of her first assignments, she went with a priest to the home of a family who needed assistance. She arrived, met with the family and calmed everyone down. Before she left, she jokingly said under her breath, “now no one is going to kill anyone are they?” The wife immediately answered, “the minute you leave I am going to go up stairs and get my gun and shoot him,” referring to her husband. The psychologist then asked the wife to give her the gun. As she handed it to the psychologist, the wife demanded that if she had to give away her gun, her husband should have to hand over his gun. The husband then announced that if he had to give away his gun, the son and daughter each had to give up their guns. All of them had guns! The counselor took all the guns and left. She later reflected how they all were protecting themselves and keeping themselves from truly being close to one another.
Advent is a time to put down our weapons. It is a time to humble ourselves and take away all that keeps us from others and the Lord.
How true is Father Delp’s quote when he says that we stand before one another with so much baggage. We stand before people with great judgment, great pride, while demanding respect. We position ourselves to be dominant, to be popular, to be liked, and to be wanted. Oh the weapons that keep us from others! For example, in those times when it’s easier to make fun of someone than actually get to know him or her. It is those times when we have to win the argument or have the last word. It is those times when we must have our own way at all costs. Even more, this way of living leads us to not accept compliments very well or believe anything noble or good about ourselves.
We have all been there.
Maybe the first step in moving forward this Advent is to put down the weapons that have kept us away from our families, entering into fruitful friendships or relationships, and lead us to be lonely and unfulfilled.
My friends, the great news is that if we put down our weapons that have shielded us from the love of Jesus, we will come to truly be like a child. A child that gives love and is able to receive it. A child that is taken care of, and wants everyone else to be taken care of as well. A child that can meet others without comparing or judging, that allows everyone to be loved and accepted. To be childlike is not permission to be childish, but a freedom to live simply, trust and love without limits or questions.
What are the weapons you need to put down? What are the barriers or walls that keep you from letting yourself be loved by our Lord or others? This week let us strive to be childlike in opening our hearts to the child in the manger - the child who loves us and came to save us.
Make the choice this moment to make this Advent different. Putting down our weapons and walls will be a good start…Happy surrendering
God Bless You,