During the four weeks of Advent leading up to the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord, students of the Scots College will be preparing reflections as we prepare for the birth of Jesus at Christmas. This week, Mark O’Donnell of the Diocese of Motherwell leads our reflection.
Casting my mind back a few weeks ago, I was taken aback by the response of people to the call for humanitarian aid to the refugees camped at Calais. It summed up what is wonderful about our humanity – the deep urge to help others. What sparked this deep desire to respond so generously? I believe it was seeing that the afflicted people were unable to help themselves; they were in need and could not fulfill that need themselves.
As this second week of Advent is upon us, we look to the figure of John the Baptist who is described as having received the Word of God in the wilderness. I can’t help but imagine an extremely odd looking man – after all he was dressed in camel skin and eating locusts!
The image of wilderness can’t help but stick in my head as it appears descriptive yet vague. It doesn’t offer much information – where was the wilderness? What does it represent for us – especially in the build up to Christmas?
The wilderness does not sound a particularly appealing place to be; it conjures images of discomfort, challenge and vulnerability. Yet, amidst the challenges of this environment there is a ‘voice crying out’. A voice that demands something of us! A voice that demands the same response from us: to cry out. To cry out in our wilderness, to cry out in our weakness; to cry out in our vulnerability. During Advent we are asked to face our own wilderness and realize that we don’t always have the strength to do everything on our own. Sometimes we are unable to fulfill all our own needs and in these moments we must acknowledge the mercy and grace offered by Christ – especially as we await His coming. We are asked during this time in Advent to reflect on our lives and accept the invitation into a more fruitful life in Christ.
As we are drawing ever closer to Christmas Day we are urged to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ but how are we to do that!? Admittedly it may not be easy, especially in such a busy time when we are thinking about the turkey, the Christmas tree, the gifts, etc. – and not to downplay the importance of these during this season – but maybe the preparation is a chance to reorder our lives. It is a chance to make ‘little changes’ day by day to help us draw closer to Christ in this season. It is a chance to strengthen our relationship with Him. Above all, it is an opportunity to recognise our false sense of self-sufficiency and turn, in reliance and trust, to the love offered by Jesus.
I wish you all a happy and holy Christmas.