Putting Off and Putting On

Advent celebrates the three historic events when God comes to us in human history: first, when He became a human person in the womb of our Blessed Mother; second, when He will eventually return at the end of time and thirdly, when in the here and now, he comes into our hearts.

These are just four weeks of preparation but, the message is basically the same--be ready, prepare, wake up.  Our Lord Jesus gave us these commands.  There are no warning signs.  He said he would come at an hour we do not even expect. 

How do we make ourselves ready then?  How do we prepare?  Very simply and basically--just wake up.

Perhaps, we had been asleep in our spiritual relationship with God.  Perhaps, we need to be awakened.  That is why Jesus warns us not to persist in sluggishness, sloth and slumber.

This reminds me of a priest, who was preaching one day about the Acts of the Apostles.  He said, “There was one person in the New Testament who slept while Paul was preaching.  His name was Eutychus.  He fell from his seat out of a three-story window.  Do you know what that means?” 

He was hoping that people would say that they were always paying attention to him whenever he speaks.  Or that Paul got really long winded with his discourse.  Or somebody would say that harm would befall those who sleep during his homily.  Until one parishioner raised up his hand and asked, “Father, does that mean we had better preachers then?”

Advent, our four-week preparation in meeting Jesus this Christmas, consists in the two phrases in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans:  put on and put off.

Put off deeds and thoughts of evil and darkness.  Put off painful regrets in the past and useless worries about the future.  Put off negativity, lies and selfishness.  Put off anything or anyone that steals and robs the spirit of Christ and Christmas in us.

We all remember the story of the Grinch who stole Christmas.  He hated the people of Whoville with their holiday decorations and gifts.  We know why he was that way.  He felt very isolated.  He had no family, just his long-suffering pet dog Max.  He had no community.  He had a small heart.

Put on Jesus, who gave us a family.  Put on Jesus, who gave us a community.  Put on the armor of light.  Put on virtues.  Put on truth, faith, prayer, hope, love.  Put on Jesus, the real present in these present and pressing times.

So, what happened to the Grinch?  The Grinch, who started out as an angry, vengeful and vindictive character, had a tremendous transformation. 

He realized that Christmas is not about wrapped gifts.  It is more than that.  So, when he saw people in Whoville join hands and started to sing even without their gifts, “the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags.  And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before.  What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store?  What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

Christmas is more about Jesus.  He made the world different.  He is the difference.  Meeting him, having him, loving him will always be a defining and transforming moment.

Wake up then.  Put off darkness. Put on light.

2 December 2013

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