A Mother came home one afternoon to discover that her kitchen was a disaster area. Her young daughter obviously had been busy “cooking” and the ingredients were scattered across the counters and floor, along with dirty bowls and utensils. She was not happy with the situation. She had spent hours that morning in cleaning the kitchen.
Then as the mother looked a little more closely at the mess, she spied a tiny note on the table, clumsily written and smeared with chocolate fingerprints. The message was short: “I’m makin’ somethin’ special for you, Mom” And it was signed, “Your Angel.”
In the midst of all the disarray and in spite of her irritation, a pure and simple joy sprung up in that mother’s heart. Why? Her attention had been re-directed from the “problem” to the “little girl she loved.” Call it a change of focus and a change of heart.
This is what I believe Advent is all about – a change of focus from problems and irritation in order to find a pure and simple joy deep within our hearts.
In today’s Gospel we once again meet John the Baptist. If anyone in the Bible can help us to change our focus, it is John the Baptist. He proclaims that he is “a voice crying out in the desert. Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Living in the desert helped John focus on his life and his words. The desert is such a basic and unforgiving place. You are close to the edge of life and death. There is no luxury or excess in the desert, just total and vast emptiness. There are no distractions in the desert – no smart phones, no computers, no TV’s, no cars, no football games. Everything is intensely focused on the bare facts of existence – You and God, God and You!
Moses, Jesus, St. Paul, along with John the Baptist went into the desert to find the meaning of their life and to find God. You and I can well benefit from a desert experience in our lives. But how can we do so in the midst of so much activity, traffic and noise? But if you don’t find God – God will come up with a way to find you!
I think each of us can have a bit of a desert experience if we learn to do with less in our lives. All the things that the advertisers try to convince us that we need to be fulfilled as human beings are not true and we know it. MORE clutters our spirit. LESS frees our spirit. Advent is the time to do with less so that we might become more. We have a better chance of meeting God and of meeting ourselves when we have fewer distractions.
In one of my parishes where I served, at this time of the year, members of the family are asked to bring a Christmas present to church to put under the tree. The week before Christmas all the presents are loaded up to be brought to children and families in the inner city. One little girl I knew named Carrie was wrapping her favorite doll to bring to church. Her mother asked why she did not get another doll to wrap up and give away. The little girl responded, “But it wouldn’t be much of a gift if it didn’t really mean that much to me and it didn’t come from my heart.”
The girl had the right focus. Carrie was truly freeing her spirit. She was doing with less so she could become more. Twenty years later I asked the mother how Carrie was doing and I told her I remembered what Carrie had done at Christmas when she was little. Her mother told me she has had that same caring spirit her whole lifetime. She has instilled it in her own children and she just bloomed spiritually and emotionally as an adult.
We all want to become someone who says I love you every night, and proves it everyday!