4th Sunday of Advent
20th December 2020
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
A few weeks ago, I got one of these WhatsApp messages. It was a very short video piece of a little boy probably no more than two years old. He was wearing a mask. But then he got a ‘lolly pop’ which he wanted to chew upon. The video piece showed him taking off the mask. He put the lolly pop in his mouth and put his mask back on with the lolly pop where he wanted it – in his mouth with the stick protruding through the mask.
Whoever filmed it – it sounded like his mother – was in fits of laughter at his ingenuity. Covid 19 there may be but he has his way to manage it. A delightful funny combination of innocence and ingenuity in one so young.
As so often happens the little ones can teach us so much. Their innocence protects them from suspicion and guile. Trust is the precious blessing of the children.
The 4th Sunday of Advent takes us to the threshold of the unique experience of this year’s Christmas. The unusual year we have experienced will no doubt shape so much of our conversation over the coming days. The prospects for 2021 will not be far from our minds either.
However, I imagine that many conversations will not be about matters economic but personal. About how people of all ages coped with themselves first, especially when cut off from their social circle. These disruptions in our everyday life have impacted on many at a very deep level. This Christmas, though limited and restricted by circumstance may well in its own way be just the space many need to stand back from things, rest awhile and have more honest and real conversations than we usually have. The atmosphere of a quiet Christmas may be a real blessing for many.
To-day the Annunciation scene from St. Luke was our Gospel. The great masters of art have depicted it endlessly and differently to capture something of the momentous and mysterious nature of the encounter. A 21st century mind without the lens of faith will struggle to make sense of it as it seeks to convey a glimpse of the mystery we celebrate at Christmas which is that the birth of this child heralds a new dawn for humanity.
That first Christmas continues to be our inspiration and hope whereby we anticipate the light that banishes darkness, the joy that displaces sadness, the hope that drives out despair, the warm heart that welcomes the stranger. When we pause and think on it – it is the Infant Jesus and the Crucified Christ who has gifted us this wonderful understanding of our life and our world. This way of seeing moves us deeply. It reawakens our appreciation of the goodness we experience in family and friendship.
My friends, in life whenever we feel threatened in any way, we reach out to cling to what is secure, to people we trust. In testing times, we get impatient with and have little time for the superficial. We yearn for what is real and authentic. We want to go back to basics. We are living through that kind of time.
We stand on the threshold of Christmas in a different key – it is always a graced time but maybe, especially this year, when we together journey through turbulence and uncertainty. We gather, yes, but remain apart. Nevertheless, let us be grateful for our time together.