I hope you are all having a rewarding Advent journey. (That sounds a bit corny, but I'll let it stand.) We put up the tree a couple of days ago. We had Christmas songs playing as we decorated it. It seems odd to me that, for such a saturated market, it only takes about two hours to run out of classic Christmas tunes! I'm afraid I am an incorrigible defender of Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade, not to mention Wonderful Christmas Time by Sir Paul. I may have alienated three quarters of my readers just by writing that.
Is there anything more beautiful than a Christmas tree? I'm not sure there is. They seem to combine and reconcile so many opposites; domesticity and collective social experience, art and nature, time and timelessness, convention and creativity, Christianity and paganism, light and darkness, jollity and melancholy, and any number of others.
Well, after praising Slade, I will redeem myself by some spiritual uplift. I very much liked this passage from the homily Pope Francis delivered in Athens, earlier this month:
By calling us to conversion, John [the Baptist] urges us to go “beyond” where we presently are; to go beyond what our instincts tell us and our thoughts register, for reality is much greater than that. It is much greater than our instincts or thoughts. The reality is that God is greater. To be converted, then, means not listening to the things that stifle hope, to those who keep telling us that nothing ever changes in life, the pessimists of all time. It means refusing to believe that we are destined to sink into the mire of mediocrity. It means not surrendering to our inner fears, which surface especially at times of trial in order to discourage us and tell us that we will not make it, that everything has gone wrong and that becoming saints is not for us. That is not the case, because God is always present. We have to trust him, for he is our beyond, our strength. Everything changes when we give first place to the Lord. That is what conversion is! As far as Christ is concerned, we need only open the door and let him enter in and work his wonders. Just as the desert and the preaching of John were all it took for Christ to come into the world. The Lord asks for nothing more.
Let us ask for the grace to believe that with God things really do change, that he will banish our fears, heal our wounds, turn our arid places into springs of water. Let us ask for the grace of hope, since hope revives our faith and rekindles our charity. It is for this hope that the deserts of today’s world are thirsting.
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