The season of Advent seems short, but the time it signifies is very long. Unlike the Lenten season, where we concentrate on our sinfulness and seek reconciliation with our God, in Advent we have the task of anticipating, of connecting with the ancestors of Jesus as they waited for the Messiah approximately 4,000 years. It was when Gabriel announced to Mary that she was to be the Mother of the Savior that the long wait was over.
Imagine Mary preparing for the trip to Bethlehem. She is more than eight months pregnant, but she goes about the selecting of clothes for the baby soon to be born, and things she will need to care for herself and the child, as well as her husband Joseph. As you prepare to visit children or relatives, join with Mary in her anticipation of the birth of Jesus.
The circumstances of housing when they came into Bethlehem were less than one would expect. But Mary, like you, knew how to make do. The Manger was small, and had sides to it. Straw was available, and the Lord of Heaven and Earth slept there. Do we have reason to complain when accommodations on a trip aren’t good?
Sheep are not the cleanest animals, and their woolly scent can be very hard to take sometimes. Shepherds carry that scent with them, and being watchers in the night, have less chance for washing so they may be less than easy to be with. But they are the ones chosen to see the Christ Child first! Poor, unclean, uneducated, rough and gruff, but CHOSEN!
What can you do this Christmas for those who are most like the shepherds?
My wish for you is:
Peace, the peace only God can give;
Joy, the joy that comes from giving; and
All Good, and that can only be God.
S. Sharonlu Sheridan, OSF, Educator
Oldenburg Franciscan Center