If we truly—and I do mean TRULY—enter wholeheartedly into the season of Advent, we might find it full of contradiction. The prophet Zephaniah, in today’s first reading, urges us to, shout for joy… sing joyfully… be glad and exalt with all your heart. As we, in a secular way, prepare for Christmas we can find joy in the shopping for gifts and the planning of the family meal. The marketeers of our economy assist us most adroitly in our preparations with their joy-filled ads as they try to excite us and draw us into the advertising for their products. Decorations on houses fill the darkness of night with the light of anticipated joy.
Yet, there is a subtle somberness as we remember those who are no longer with us. There is also the lingering pains of family disagreements, disenfranchised friends and financial issues.
St. John the Baptist reminds us that our hearts can only be filled with JOY when we turn away from the things of the world and turn toward God. He tells his followers, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. Whoever has food should do likewise.” He tells us to stopping cheating, stop lying, stop complaining and don’t lord it over others. In other words, reform our lives and turn towards God. This requires serious and not-so-pleasant self-examination of our actions.
Yes, if we TRULY enter into the season, it can be a time of joy coexisting with sadness and we might look forward to having Christmas behind us so we can return to our daily routine. At the same time, if we TRULY enter into the season we can own the Peace of God that surpasses all understanding.