I was out of the Advent starting gate like a shot this year, with my book of daily Advent reflections tucked under my arm and the words of the prophets ringing in my ears. The Advent wreath was aglow, and so was my Advent heart. I was sure that this year would be an Advent for the ages. Things were moving along nicely until somewhere between weeks two and three I hit a wall. Not only wasn't I using my Advent reflection book; I couldn't even find my Advent reflection book, which was, in many ways, symbolic of my entire Advent spiritual experience. It was fading fast, lost beneath the rubble of the responsibilities of the season and work deadlines that threatened to overwhelm me. Where other offices slow down in the days before Christmas so that people can attend parties and trade Secret Santa gifts, my office of one speeds up, and the faster the work piles on, the faster my Advent spirit begins to whither. I could feel a sense of sadness setting in, not because there was anything going on in my life that was particularly sad but because I was feeling disconnected from God at a time when I most wanted to feel that connection burning brighter than ever.
So here we are at the start of week four. Our Gospel reading today brought together so many important figures and pieces of our faith story: Mary and Elizabeth, John the Baptist and Jesus. And although we didn't hear it read at Mass, what rounds out today's Gospel if you keep reading are the powerful and poignant words of the Magnificat.
"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant.
"From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name..." (Luke 1:46-49)
Mary's words give substance to the awe and wonder that our spirits can sense as Christmas draws closer. We have just a few days left. Maybe our Advent didn't turn out exactly as we had hoped. Maybe our plans got sidetracked along the way. That's OK. There's still time to get ready, time to prepare, time to rejoice. As the four candles of the Advent wreath fill our homes with warmth and light, let us open our hearts to the Light that is ours not just on Christmas but every day.