I am attempting to discern whether I should consult a clinical psychologist to ascertain whether I am still mentally competent to undertake another year of these reflections?! How original and relevant could I be as I embark on the fifteenth year of this ministry? I am faced with the fact that it will be the same person writing for, by and large, the same good people. I will try my best but depend on you for constructive criticism and suggestions.

Yebo! We have arrived at the start of a new liturgical year – Luke’s turn again – and behold ADVENT IS UPON US! So, ignore those who may suggest that should not expect too much! The very wordadvent implies expectation. Something is about to happen. We should not confuse the word happen with occur. Christmas for us Christians is not an occurrence, it is aHAPPENING. Unless I expect this happening nothing will, in fact, HAPPEN! O yes, I can (reluctantly or otherwise) go through the motions but these will not engender any sense of expectation. Is it possible for me, as a believing Christian, not to desire some real, personal, happening at Christmas?

Take a look at our OLD TESTAMENT READING [JEREMIAH 33: 14 – 16]. “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfil the promise I made … I will cause …”

The first challenge of Advent should focus on the last three words of the scripture text just mentioned –

I WILL CAUSE! The initiative is with the Lord – not with me! The tendency in all of us is to take too much on ourselves. In doing so we elbow God-in-Christ out of the picture. Advent is not about me – it about the Lord for whom I have to make space. We should refrain from taking occupation of Advent. Jesus Christ must be given room to manoeuvre himself into the picture. Otherwise, he is unable to CAUSE ANYTHING OF VALUE TO HAPPEN. Advent must control me – I must not attempt to control the time in which our God is making HIS effort to CAUSE a happening in and for me.

However, be warned! Do not make up your mind what the Lord should cause to happen. That would be a recipe for disappointment! All that is required of me is to

EXPECT something special and different to enrich me. After all, why do we wrap the gifts we give to others? Surely the answer is because we want it to be a SURPRISE!? In Advent we should allow (invite?) our God to surprise us. TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 21: 25 – 28. 34 – 35] tells us to “take heed … lest your hearts be weighed down with … the cares of life.” Rather “take heed … to stand before the Son of Man.”

In Advent there should be no room for hidden agendas. Rather, I must stand upright with empty, expectant and open hands. Then the newborn Jesus

WILL cause something to happen.

I believe the second challenge of Advent concerns my belief in the promises of God. Is it strong, firm and clear? He has promised to fulfil themcause them to happen.

DO I BELIEVE THIS? It is this belief that enables the Lord to “establish (our) hearts before our God,” and show us how we “ought to walk and please (him).” {see our NEW TESTAMENT READING – 1 THESSALONIANS 3:12 – 4:2}

I do not care how old you are – or how decrepit or jaded you may be – but our God still (and always) has something up his sleeve with which to surprise you. We must all expect and believe in a happening. As

TODAY’S PSALM [25 or 24] tells us – “good and upright is the Lord … he guides … teaches … keeps his covenant … (his secret) he reveals.”

As our Gospel teaches –

“when these things begin to happen, look up and raise your heads.” Advent is the beginning of the happening. Today Jeremiah reminds us that whatever this happening may be we “will be saved … and will dwell securely.”

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