20 Dec 2015
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.” (Luke 1:41)
In the name …
Well, we’re almost there. After Mass we’ll be taking down the purple and putting up the greens. We’ll set up the Christmas tree and the manger. A little bit later we’re even going out to our parish volunteer’s Christmas party. We’re almost there, but not quite. Even though all of this is planned, it’s still Advent. It’s still a time to prepare ourselves for the coming mystery of God becoming one of us. But there’s a lot to be said for anticipation. Just think about that movie that came out this weekend. I forget its name. Star-something or other. Ten years of anticipation had to add an awful lot of excitement to opening night for all the fans of that series.
Anticipation is also the message in today’s Gospel. Luke tells us the story of Mary going to visit Elizabeth. As she enters Elizabeth’s house, the child leaped in her womb. This is the Evangelist’s way of telling us that even before Jesus’ birth there is already the excited anticipation of what is yet to unfold. Waiting ten years for The Force Awakens is one thing, but the last message of Advent is that the world has waited since the moment of creation for the coming of Christ. The anticipation is so powerful that even before Jesus is born things are beginning to happen. And this sense of eager anticipation is reflected again in today’s liturgy. It’s heard in the message of the Angel Candle and those words that Karen read for us: “This is for you …for now … for here … for everyone … forever!” That’s an awful lot expected from the anticipated birth of one child, but that’s the message behind the story of Mary coming to Elizabeth and the child who leaped in her womb. It’s about the anticipation of what can be. It’s about hope.
You’ve probably heard the Christmas song on the radio by Stevie Wonder. It’s called Someday at Christmas. I’m going to play it for you in a second as the last words of this year’s last Advent sermon. You may have heard the song before, but this time try to really concentrate on its message. It’s a Christmas song, but it’s all about the anticipation of what Christmas can really be if we take it seriously enough, if we do our part of living like Jesus showed us we can. The song begins with the words, “Someday at Christmas…” It’s not about what Christmas is; it’s about what Christmas can become. It’s about anticipation. It continues, “Someday at Christmas there’ll be no war when we learn what Christmas is for. When we have found what life’s really worth, then there’ll be peace on earth.”
I heard on the news that high levels of lead have poisoned the water in the city of Flint, Michigan – an American city in a prosperous country with a thriving auto industry. All of the children of that city 5 years old and younger may be developmentally hampered because there was no money to invest in replacing water lines. Every child 5 and younger. The city has to plan for more special education teachers in its school system because of this and also for more law enforcement because many criminals suffer from intellectual impairments. “Someday at Christmas when we have found what life’s really worth, then there’ll be peace on earth.” There’s something messed-up with our priorities if this can happen here in America, but hopefully, someday, Christmas and the message that all life has been made sacred by the birth of Jesus will help us to change this kind of thing.
And what makes this song so much about anticipation is the line: “Maybe not in time for you and me, but someday at Christmas time.” This Fall we planted our community garden out back. I don’t know how many of us who planted those apple trees will be here to bring bushels of fresh fruit to the Survival Center, but someday someone from Holy Name will because of what we have done. “Maybe not in time for you and me, but someday at Christmas time.” Remember that baby leaping in his mother’s womb. Jesus hadn’t even been born yet, but already there was the excitement and the challenge of the anticipation of what could be. Maybe our world has so much poverty and its consequences because there is so much war and terror wasting all our resources and stealing all of our attention, but let us pray that our last prayers before Christmas help us to anticipate a better tomorrow. Let us pray that what we do now as believers in Christmas may make the world a better place – someday.
And now the three minute sermon of Stevie Wonder.
Fr. Randolph Calvo