The 2nd of Stephen Covey’s well known 7 habits of highly effective people----- is to begin with the end in mind.
Covey speculates, and I think accurately -- that things are a bit easier, and hardships better endured – if one has the outcome of which all the planning and hard work and sacrifice is going to produce --- already in mind – rather than going about things haphazardly and hoping things turn out okay in the end.
Begin with the end in mind. As we begin this season of Advent – it is good for us to keep the end in mind – which, of course, is the celebration of Christmas.
And the goal of Christmas is not to be able to say we bought all the right presents for people, or the tree was perfect this year, or all our holiday doings went off without a hitch – but the goal is to make sure that we have prepared room in our hearts and lives for Jesus to come and dwell in them. We don’t want to end up like the inn keeper who had no room in his inn for the Holy Family – and turned them away.
Begin with the end in mind: making room in our hearts and lives for Jesus our Savior to come and dwell in them. I think even this becomes a little easier – and the hardships and sacrifices better endured if we answer a question or two every Sunday as we proceed on our journey Bethlehem.
The first of these questions, posed by the Gospel today is: how do we stay watchful and alert during Advent??? Because if we are watchful and alert – then we will have room in our hearts and lives for Jesus when Christmas does come.
I think you have to be my age or older to remember Bazooka bubble gum – as I don’t think it is around anymore.
The gum came individually wrapped in packages of red, white and blue --- that were about an inch tall and an inch wide.
Even more important than the gum itself – were the Bazooka Joe comic strip wrappers inside – that if you collected enough of them – you could send off for wonderful free stuff like a pocket knife or x-ray vision glasses, or an authentic Native American peace-pipe.
My sisters, brothers, and I--- chewed a lot of gum – just to collect all the Bazooka Joe comics we could – and we did send off for that exotic stuff –and were usually disappointed because what arrived in the mail was never like what was pictured on that red, white and blue wrapper.
So we sent off our wrappers, and then went about our schooling or our playing – all the while being sure to check the mail as it came every day.
It was a very passive, but anxious, watching and waiting. There was nothing we could do to hurry the mail – nothing we could do to make those magical packages appear any earlier than they did.
And we can do this type of watching and waiting during Advent – in fact it’s probably the type of watching and waiting we usually do.
We go about our cooking and decorating and the sending of Christmas cards and of course the shopping,
all the while complaining there is not enough time in the day to get everything done we need to do – and then all of a sudden it is Christmas and we usually end Advent more exhausted than when it began.
But that’s not the type of staying watchful and alert that the Gospel is calling us to. Rather than being passive – the Gospel calls us to very ACTIVE watching and waiting. . . We’re supposed to be doing something as we anxiously await the coming of the Lord.
And what are we supposed to be doing?? I think our other readings speak to that. . .
The Prophet Isaiah asks: why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways – and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
While we watch and wait – we are called to actively identify those ways in which we have hardened our hearts. . .
Isaiah continues: “we are the clay and you are the potter, O Lord, we are all the work of your hands.”
While we watch and wait – we are called to actively identify those ways we still need to be molded and shaped by the Lord.
Hopefully none of us think that we are already a finished product! What parts of our lives still need to be worked by the hands of the Lord?
St. Paul reminds us that it is through GRACE that are lives are enriched and that we are not lacking in any way.
While we watch and wait – we are to actively identify the ways we still need the grace of God to be at work in our lives.
In short, the Psalmist captures the Advent activity we are supposed to be about quite well: “Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
It is Christ that comes at Christmas who will save us --- but only if there is room in our hearts for Christ to come and dwell! And for that to happen – we must do these things, these very challenging self-reflective things – to make room in our hearts and lives.
And if we actively do these things as we watch and wait – unlike my brothers and sisters and I who were often disappointed in what we received in the mail after redeeming our Bazooka Joe comics – we will not be disappointed in the gift God brings to us at Christmas – as God will find more than just sugar-plums dancing in our heads – but God will find open hearts to receive him.
And then God will be able to bring about awesome deeds we could not even hope for – deeds of which no one has ever heard and no eye has ever seen.
Come, Lord Jesus – we are staying watchful and alert as we await your coming!
Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel – shall come to you o Israel. . .
Moments in time...