December 15, 2006


Advent is a time of longing


Each year, the Church begins again with a new year of grace that takes us back to the beginning of human history and of our individual histories.

Each new Church year, we “start afresh from Christ” (as Pope John Paul II urged us to do in the dawning years of the new millennium) by recalling the time before Christ, the time when all of humanity longed for the one who would enter into our sad old history and make it joyful and new.

Advent, which is a season of expectation and hopefulness, is also a time of longing. We remember the longing of ages past, but we also recognize and name the longing that exists now in our own hearts as we live in the here and now of our everyday lives.

What is it that we long for?

Pope Benedict XVI describes our longing this way: “We long for justice; and that is why we also long for truth. … We long for senseless gossip, for cruelty and misery to come to an end; we long for the darkness of misunderstanding that divides us, our incapacity to love to have an end and for true love to be really possible, freeing our life from its dungeon of loneliness, opening the door to others, opening the door to infinity without destroying us. … We long for true happiness. All of us.”

We long for the coming of Christ, for the joy of Christmas and for real peace on earth (and in our hearts).

This is the “true happiness” we long for, and Christmas is the story of our longing fulfilled. It is the story of justice, truth, love and joy. We believe it is a true story, and we long to experience it again and again, as we did when we were children.

As Christians, we are called to be stewards of this longing and its fulfillment, which is a gift to be treasured and shared year after year until Christ comes again.

How can we be good stewards of the Advent longing that leads to Christmas joy?

Gratitude—We can be thankful for God’s nearness and for the traditions that recall and relive Christ’s presence and his coming again.

Responsibility—We can stop complaining about the secularization of Christmas and actually do something about it.

Generosity—We can make self-giving (not gift-giving) No. 1 on our to-do list this time of year.

Giving back—We can return God’s gifts with increase by doing our part to bring justice and truth and freedom and love into our world. By living what we celebrate during Advent and Christmas, we become good stewards of this holy season. We do make our world a better place, and we do indeed “start afresh from Christ.”

Let’s be good stewards of Advent and Christmas. Let’s celebrate the Christmas virtues of gratitude, responsibility, generosity and giving back to God with increase. Let’s recognize our longing and the hopes that are deeply hidden in our hearts as we wait in joyful hope for Christ’s coming again.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus. Fill our longing with your justice and your truth. Come, Prince of Peace. Free us with your love and your grace. Make us joyful, happy and free—now and always and forever. Amen!

— Dan Conway

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