There are many things in life that repeat itself—for example, birthdays and anniversaries. Although we dislike these anniversaries because they remind us that we are getting older, each time it’s repeated we learn something new. Some time ago, I spent my off-day with a priest-friend of mine whose parents live in Henderson, Louisiana; his house is near the exit before the Breaux Bridge exit. At the seminary, he was our official Cajun cultural ambassador. All of us seminarians whether we were Ugandans, Puertorican, Mexican, Vietnamese, or Korean, we all learned few important Cajun vocabulary such as, mais yeah and mais no. His parents are retired, so all of us sat around the big TV on our easy rockers in the den. We talked about this and that, and glanced now and then at the TV. And I noticed that The Young and the Restless soap opera was on. And I nearly fell off the rocker. There they were—John Abbott, Ashley Abbott, Victor Newman, and Nikki Newman. Twenty-four years ago, my sister and I spent the whole summer vacation watching that show. I could not believe that these four actors and actresses were still playing the same role after twenty-four years. I wondered out loud, “How could you possibly keep the story line fresh all these years with these same characters?”
Are you wondering, ‘Fr. Paul, what does the First Sunday of Advent has anything to do with The Young and the Restless?’ There is a connection, a rather weak one. The producers of that soap opera spend $1.5 million dollars each weak paying the writers, actors, and camera crew to tweak the basic story line to keep it engaging and fresh to draw the audience back to the show year after year. In the same way, God in his wisdom keeps fresh and engaging the mystery of the birth, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus by placing it in a yearly cycle. Today is the beginning of the new liturgical year, with new colors, new attitude, new anticipation, and new hope for the arrival of the Christ the King.
The purple chasuble that I’m wearing is a signal that this is a time of penance and fasting, a time of preparation for the coming or the ‘advent’ of the King. In the ancient times, purple garment was costly and was reserved for the royalty. Yet at the same time, you remember that Jesus was draped in purple robe as mockery after he was scourged and crowned with thorns.
It is unfortunate that the Advent falls on the weeks of frenzied shopping for Christmas. The Advent is not about shopping but temperance of appetite and preparation of our conscience to open wide the doors of our heart to Jesus. But what can you do if Christmas advertising is so in-your-face? It wasn’t even November when first signs of Christmas were already showing up in local stores. The jingles were already playing on the radio. Our local newspaper was thick with advertising inserts to draw our credit cards to the stores. This Friday, as known as Black Friday, there were thousands people out early in the morning to get their hands on doorbuster deals. The New York Times made the following observation. "All those people were there, because of sophisticated marketing forces...American business has long excelled at creating a sense of shortage amid abundance, an anxiety that one must act now or miss out...In a sense, the American economy has become a kind of piñata--lots of treats in there, but no gurantee that you will get any, making people prone to frenzy and sending some home bruised." (NY Times, 11/29/08 Week In Review section) On Thanksgiving Day I watched a show on TV where it featured clips of past Black Friday shopping madness. One clip showed a TV news reporter interviewing a lady shopping at Toys R Us the day after Thanksgiving, 5am in the morning. Five feet away was a child who was crying because someone snatched away from her the hottest toy of the season. The shopper remarked, ”I can’t believe that someone would snatch away Tickle-Me-Elmo- from that little child. What’s the world coming to?” The irony was that she had underneath her arm a Tickle-Me-Elmo which she could have given to that child.
Perhaps the greatest gift that we could give our children this Advent is to help them focus on whom we are waiting for. No, it’s not the doorbuster deal or the hottest toy of the season that children should be waiting for. Everyday, Jesus instructs us to be watchful and preparing for his coming. With Advent Our Lord attracts us with fresh and engaging re-presentation of his birth, passion, and resurrection. Our prayer and desire during this Advent should be, “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”