The Scripture verses for this third Sunday of Advent give such hope, as we wait and prepare for Christmas, even if sometimes the preparations seem hollow, and our cares and burdens have us feeling low.
I love all the preparations for Christmas -- the decorating, baking, Christmas music playing in the stores -- even the cold snowy weather here in the upper Mid-west fits in with the beauty of this season. But I have been made aware that the Christmas "spirit" is not reaching everyone this year. Many people are having a very hard time right now, with the economy so uncertain, the job losses. If we are not in an economic depression, we might be in a spiritual one.
I know a little about that. For many years my Christmases were a mixture of joy and sadness, and sometimes the season rang like an empty bowl when it seemed like the reason for the season - that would be Jesus -had been shoved aside to make room for more "things."
I love the Christmas preparations but not the stress of the things that we think we have to do, and which often keep us "too busy" to light a candle and say a prayer, or read a bit of scripture, or that make us tell family members "later" when they need us "now."
It can be hard to fight that sometimes, I must confess, but it's important to try.
In the Scripture readings of the third Sunday of Advent, you might understand why I love the words in the first reading of Isaiah 35: 1-10:
"...They will see the glory of the lord, the splendor of our God. Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened: be strong fear not! Here is your God; with divined recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag. Then will the tongue of the mute sing. Those the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing crowned with everlasting joy; they will be with joy and gladness. Sorrow and mourning will flee."
That is a prophecy of such promise! And I believe it; I claim it and trust in it.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband and I were able to visit our families on the west coast. His mother's delicious feast was made even better for being with the company of family. We also had a chance to visit my 92-year-old mother, who lives in a nursing facility. Each time I get a chance to see her, I try to press our time together into my memory, because I never know if this visit will be the last one. She has become very feeble, and has mild dementia, and sometimes lives in her own little world, but if that is a happy place for her, I can only be thankful.
As we visited with Mother, the activity director greeted us and said, "Did you know that your mom sings?" With a little prompting, she then got my little mother, in her wheelchair, to sing "Home, Home on the Range."
I will treasure that memory all my life, but as wonderful as it was to hear, I was glad my mother can't see very well anymore, because I was a bath of tears.
Leaving my mother to visit some old friends of Ed's, I was emotional and quiet as we drove. We listened to Hugh Hewitt interview a man named Augie Nieto and his wife. Augie is a man with ALS; he has adaptive equipment on his wheelchair and with a computer at his feet, he types with his toes -- the only part of his body that he can still use to communicate. He has such a positive attitude, and is determined to continue to live his life to the fullest, and make each day meaningful.* His story made me aware, as I was in visiting my mother, that our days are numbered, and any day can be our last. If I hadn't already been emotional after my mother's song, the interview with Augie made our drive a pretty soggy one.
Since then I have been thinking about the ups and downs of life - how everyone's life is a challenge. I am on the prayer chain at our church, and each day there are new requests, and there is so much need. One woman's young daughter - a mother with four little ones - has brain cancer. She and her family are hoping for a miracle. Three friends have become widows this year, and their Christmas sadness carries on their voices, while the world wants them to be happy.
The Responsorial for this Sunday is Psalm 146: 6-10, where it says, "...the fatherless and the widow He sustains." Thisis a verse that I clung to when I was a single mother with a small son. I know that these women are clinging to it now -- the widows, and the mother of a young mother in trouble.
The theme of the Scripture readings the third week of Advent are all about waiting patiently for the Lord, and the joy his coming day will bring. The Gospel reading, Matthew 11:2-11, speaks of how even John the Baptist while in prison sent his disciples to Jesus with the question, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Jesus said to them in reply, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk...the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them, and blessed is the one who takes no offence in me."