Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011

Christmas is a time for feasts, for celebrating, for partying. And how many of us here like to party? We should, because it is both Catholic and human to want to celebrate! And so Christmas has to be a time where we talk about partying, feasting, celebrating! Most of us are probably going to leave here and do just that: gather with family and friends and celebrate. I am sure you all are looking forward to this as much as I am. But before we get geared up for our feasts, I want us all to imagine something: the absolute best party that you can think of. Just imagine...

Can you see it: candles lit with flames bouncing off the walls. Lights and colors, dazzling and glowing, dancing around the room. A table set: fine china, silver, cups and goblets, plates lined with gold. And the best part, all the mothers out there won’t have to be cleaning any of the dishes. Just imagine…

Can you hear it: beautiful music, notes touching your soul. Laughter, rejoicing. Voices of friends reuniting, voices of families remembering. The perfect symphony of life.

Can you taste it: all the delicacies of the world simply for our enjoyment. Shrimp and steak covered in butter, golden lobster and steaming crab, plump turkey and juicy chicken, and magically without all the fat or cholesterol. And don’t forget veggies for you Vegans, decorated in all the colors of the rainbow. Along with tantalizing desserts for the sweet tooth; and wines and spirits flowing for the thirsty.

Can you feel it: the warmth of a glowing fire. A delightful dance. The hug from a distant family member. The embrace of a friend. The kiss from one who shares your soul.

The feast is set to provide for our every desire. And the best part is this: imagine, we have all received an invitation. All we need to do now, is attend.
Christmas is a time for feasting, for celebrating, for partying.

And yet there is a certain irony with feasting. Unfortunately, it always has to come to an end. The wine runs out, the food is cleared, the music stops playing, and the guests go home. In just a few weeks, our Christmas trees will come down, the lights will stop glowing, our children will return to school, and we will find ourselves alone, having to return to our somewhat feastless lives. There is sadness, because the feast seems to have to end.

But does it really? Doesn’t Christmas really mean that the feast doesn’t have to come to an end?

Two thousand years ago God sent us all an invitation to a different kind of feast: a heavenly one. One that never has to come to an end. His invitation was written by his Word, his son, who was born of a young Jewish girl named Mary. This birth can’t help but defy our understanding, confuse our language and set sailing our scientific sensibilities. For it was unique to its time and has never, nor will ever, be duplicated. It is the highest ideal held by any religion. In the birth of the boy named Jesus, God became a human being. God became a human being. God became a human being, and gave us as human beings an opportunity to be like God. To join the feast. The coming of the Christ Child was God preparing the table, playing the music, cooking the food, and decorating the world for a new feast, to which we have all been invited. Just imagine…

Can you see it: Families once divided uniting in forgiveness and love. Nations racked with violence, poverty and destitution being restored. The economic woes of our own time disappearing where all receive what is necessary to survive, live, and to even thrive.

Can you hear it: the negative rhetoric that drives our politics overwhelmed by voices of dialogue supporting the common good. The yelling in our homes that tears us down and the bullying voices that terrorize us in school drowned out by the encouragement of friends and the care of family.

Can you taste it: the hunger that plagues the world satisfied by the gift of those who have so much. The hunger in our hearts for love and intimacy filled by the one in the manger. The thirst for peace quenched so that the world’s militaries disband and soldiers are able to come home.

Can you feel it: The touch of true forgiveness wiping away our darkest sins that we thought we would have to carry with us forever. And the embrace of our loving God, welcoming us all home, when this world and our lives are caught up in the eternal kingdom gathered around the one who once occupied the crib in that little town of Bethlehem.

This feast has been set for us. Imagine, we have all received an invitation. The Christ child is waiting. All we have to do now, is attend.

Monday, December 19, 2011

4th Sunday of Advent

There I am, in sixth grade, sitting next to the phone. My heart is racing. I have to call her. As much as a sixth grader can love, I love this girl. Now of course, I haven’t really had a conversation with her. But I did have a friend pass a note to one of her friends to give to her! It must be true love. So I dial the number, and immediately I hang up. I can’t do it right now. But I must. So I dial again—and I wait for one ring—and hang up. Yikes, this is too much. I think my heart is going to jump out of my chest. Courage Aaron, courage. I dial again, one ring, two rings—an answer. It’s her mom. She’s not home. She just left the house. Praise the Lord I say to myself. I won’t have to be having that conversation quite yet. I guess it wasn’t quite the right time to make the call. I begin to realize at a young age: sometimes perfect timing is everything.

There were two words to describe time in the Greek language that were used when Jesus lived. Chronos and Kairos. Chronos is our common understanding of time. It is the time of a clock. It helps to mark our days and it helps us to attend to our meetings and responsibilities. Kairos, however, is something different. Kairos refers to the perfect time, the fullness of time, the opportune time. The time when everything seems to come together just perfectly. Chronos, in one sense, is the time for human beings. Where kairos is the time of God. And yet, as we see in today’s Gospel, sometimes kairos meets chronos. For perfect timing is everything.

Imagine our universe: 13.7 billion years old. Our galaxy: 13.2 billion years old. Our solar system: 4.6 billion years old. And our earth: 4.5 billion years old. On our earth approximately 108 trillion people have walked, 700 billion of those which are alive right now, at this time. And yet in all that chronos time, with all of those people, a karos event took place some two thousand years ago. God could have chosen any time, any place, and any person. And yet he knew the proper kairos. He knew when to choose to send an angel to visit a lowly Jewish woman from Nazareth, a woman named Mary. This was the perfect time, the opportune time, the fullness of time for God to prepare the way to visit his people. It was just the right time for salvation, joy, peace and love to come. Sometimes perfect timing is everything.

John and Cindy were a newly married couple. Since their wedding night they faithfully remained open to having children. They longed and desired for this to happen. Yet month after month went by, and they soon became worried, scared, disheartened. Upon visiting the doctor they found that Cindy had certain conditions that would complicate her ability to become pregnant. They were devastated. Yet as a couple they kept trying, praying, waiting. In their struggle and fears they grew closer in their marriage. They grew closer to God. And one morning Cindy ran from the bathroom to the bedroom where she found John. He knew in her eyes what message she bore. Nine months later, she held her precious daughter in her arms. That moment, that time, had been made perfect by God.

There are so many things in our life that we long to happen. We need to sell our house. We want our semester to be finished. We wish that guy or girl in our science class would just notice us. We cry at night wondering if we will ever experience true love. We wonder if this time of sickness will come to pass. We long for kairos to meet chronos. We long for the perfect time.

It was no different for the ancient Israelites. They had suffered. They had been exiled. They had experienced great loss. And yet they still waited for a savior. And God was faithful. With the words that we pray so often, “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.” Something happened for us all. Chronos became kairos when the Lord and God of kairos came to dwell among the chronos.

From that moment there can be no mistaking it: God holds all time in his hands. He knows and will bring about, when the moment is right, the joy that we desire, the deep longings in our heart, the love that will make us whole. We only need to try to do what Mary did. Casting aside all fear, we place our lives in his hands. For he is the author and perfecter of all that we could desire. He is perfect timing. And we no longer have to wait. This Advent season—this Christmas season, is a reminder that kairos has met chronos. The perfect time is now.