Bishop Ralph – Advent Reflection, 2014 – Sheffield Catholic Cathedral.
As I write these few words, the first Sunday of Advent is drawing to a close. At last, the Church has caught up with the commercial world’s preparations for Christmas that began a couple of months ago. Even so, throughout this time, the Church’s Advent liturgy will still, to some degree, remain in competition with the lights and decorations of our city centres, the buying of presents and the planning of menus! In fact, we could be forgiven for thinking that our own Advent preparations have become “a still small voice” in the midst of all the excitement of the High St. Well, small voice of not, it is a voice that still needs to be heard.
Why? Because we believe that it is a voice that speaks to all peoples. It speaks of a God who loved us so much that he became as all people are in the person of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. And in Jesus, we celebrate the best of what it means to be human and catch a glimpse of what we can be. So we should never be afraid to set out on our Advent journey even if it means that we are out of step with those around us. Rather, we need to make the journey and let those around us know we are making it and why – both for their sake and ours.
As we begin the journey through Advent it might be worth noting the movement of this year’s season to help us make the most of the Advent time. In the readings for this first Sunday of Advent, we were invited to look forward to the coming of Christ at some undetermined time and to be ready for the day of the Lord when it comes.
“Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come”. (Mk 13:33)
Next Sunday and the third Sunday of Advent, the Church invites us to celebrate and reflect on the life and role of the giant biblical figure of John the Baptist who, in his own inimitable way, prepared the world for and heralded the coming of the Christ, the Chosen One of God.
“Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandal’.(Mk.1:7)
On the fourth and final Sunday we are reminded of the story of the Annunciation – of that moment in history that made it possible for our God to take on human flesh like ours through the obedience of the young girl from Nazareth called Mary.
I hope that the journey you begin today and the scripture characters you meet along the way will lead you to a joyful encounter with the Christ child this Christmas.