Pulpit Reflections by Father Donald Imming Have you taken a trip lately? If so, I'm quite sure you knew precisely where you were going and packed accordingly. If you were headed for Florida, you packed differently than if you were going to Canada.
The end point or destination of life seen as a journey for a disciple of Jesus is his return in glory. No, not death. At death our personal journey ends. But the church, the community of faith to which we belong together with countless others, does not end its journey until Christ comes again.
The church year begins four Sundays before Christmas with the season of Advent. During that year the church re-enacts the drama of salvation to keep those events clearly before our eyes. Since Advent is at the beginning of the church year, it is only natural that we be reminded to pack our bags right for our journey as Christ's disciples. Not to pack would be foolish. That's why the overture to this drama picks up the theme of John the Baptist's message: "Prepare the way of the Lord." (Luke 3:5)
If we examine that message as it is given in St. Luke's gospel (Luke 3:1-18) carefully, we see it's about unpacking as well as packing our bags. Repentance is about change � changing what needs to be changed. Throwing out the old rags for new garments. Replacing hateful thoughts with understanding; harsh and cutting words with kind ones; hurtful actions with helpful ones.
But isn't Advent supposed to be about getting ready for Christmas? In part that is true. It is a preparation for Christ's coming. Advent is Latin for coming. But Christ comes to us in a variety of ways. Christ has already come in history. That is past. We cannot prepare for that. But we can make our recollection of that fact a means of preparing ourselves for his coming in glory. Even if we are dead and gone long before then, we will have a part in it. For as St. Paul tells us, the dead will rise. (I Corinthians 15:12 ff)
I wager that if we knew Christ would be returning in his glory on this Christmas Day, we would have the best Advent ever. And he might. Jesus at the end of the Book of Revelation says: "I am coming soon!"
As you pack, put some prayer in your bags, in your life, that is. Not packaged, because you'll need to use it often � daily. Prayer is what opens the soul to God, prayer rooted in faith. It's not intended to be a bromide or anti-acid one uses when needed. It's food for the journey, which miraculously never gets used up. It is through faith-filled prayer that God reaches out to us and us to God in Christ. It is through prayer that hope is sustained, that trust grows, and that patience with ourselves and others is maintained.
See you at the festivities!