Saturday, December 17, 2016

Learning How to Wait Well - A Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Cycle A

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
December 18, 2016

When I was a kid, my parents did a great job of making sure that my sister and I did not spend a lot of time simply idling around the house. We were a family of adventurers…we did a lot of camping, took a lot of day trips, visited family around New England – in short, we liked to stay busy. But no matter what we had planned, no matter where we were going, every family outing started off exactly the same: dad and I were always ready to go at the agreed-upon time and my mother and sister never were. The car would be packed, everything would be in order, and dad and I would be waiting out in the driveway for a good 10 to 15 minutes before the girls nonchalantly made their way to the car. I remember dad sitting in the driver’s seat, tapping the steering wheel, wondering aloud about what they could possibly be doing. It was annoying at first, but you know, something interesting happened during that waiting period. Since it was just dad and me, we’d start talking and start getting revved up about our adventure. He’d pull out the map, show me how to read it, and then ask for my childish opinion about the best route to take. If we were going to a campground or something, we’d pull out the brochures and start talking about all the cool things we’d do. And if we were visiting family, we’d reminisce about the last time we saw everybody and how much fun it was going to be to see them all again. It was simple, but dad had a way of taking those boring waiting periods and using them to build up more excitement in me, so that by the time my mom and sister got in the car and we were on our way, I was all the happier and definitely more ready for what was coming.

Advent is a lot like that waiting period in the car…four long weeks of waiting while the rest of the world is up to its neck in egg nog, Jingle Bells, and candy canes. The Church is somber and quiet, dragging her feet with O Come, O Come Emmanuels rather than O Come All Ye Faithfuls. Some people have had their trees up since Halloween, but the Church has only her simple Advent wreath counting down the weeks. There’s no Gloria yet…not a poinsettia in sight…and no hope for a single Joy to the World until Christmas Eve. For Christmas fanatics like me, the waiting is tough…but there’s a genius to it. If we let it, if we give into it, the waiting of Advent can condition us to enter more joyfully, more excitedly, more readily into the glory of Christmas.

For the last four weeks, the Church in her liturgy has been pulling out her maps, taking out her brochures, and reminiscing with us all for the sake of helping us enter more deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation. We’ve been listening attentively to the prophecies of Isaiah and Zechariah and John the Baptist while recalling the longing that the people of Israel felt for the appearance of the Messiah. We’ve sung ancient hymns and canticles and psalms that capture the full range of humanity’s angst, expectation, and hope. We’ve been offered the opportunity to go to Confession, to pray more, and to give our time and treasure to the needy and the poor. The work of Advent, the waiting and the preparing that we do, isn’t meant to be an annoying burden that prevents us from celebrating sooner…it’s a gift that is meant to help us celebrate deeper. Advent reminds us that the best things in life are worth waiting for, and if we can develop a little bit of patience, all of the promises of Advent will be given to us in full measure.

In one week’s time we’ll be back here in this church. At that point, our Advent waiting will have become Christmas joy. In the meantime, though, for the next seven days, let’s take this next week to ensure that we round off this blessed time as best as possible. How can we give in more completely to the power of Advent before Christmas comes knocking? Maybe we can make it a point to go to daily Mass a couple times this week. Or maybe come to Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesday. Maybe we can shut the TV off for a couple of nights and read the Scriptures – especially the infancy narratives in the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Maybe we can spend some extra quiet time in prayer, thinking about and praying for a world in such desperate need of grace and mercy. Maybe we can abstain from candy and sweets and excesses this week, saving all of our celebrating for the actual season of Christmas. Maybe we can pick a day to write a bunch of cards for the residents of a local nursing home, or pick up a load of non-perishables for a food pantry, or weed out the extra clothes we’re not wearing and bring them to a thrift store or other charity. If we can spend the next seven days not jumping the gun and making the best use of this last stretch of Advent waiting, I guarantee that our Christmas joy will be more complete.

In our Gospel today, St. Joseph gets his mind and expectations blown when the angel of the Lord reveals to him that Wisdom incarnate, the Mighty Lord, the Root of Jesse, the Key of David, the bright Dayspring, the King of Nations, Emmanuel Himself had been conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary and would soon be living in his home, under his watchful care and protection. At that moment, Joseph entered into his own Advent waiting…and no doubt he set about at once to make a worthy home for the Christ Child. Let’s take Joseph as our model this week and let him teach us, like dads do, how to wait well. Then we'll be able to treasure every waking moment we have as we ready our minds, our hearts, and our souls to receive the Newborn King with great joy.

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