Every year the Christmas season seems to visit us earlier. Advent is a time for all of us to grow in hope and to avail of the spiritual gifts that are truly greater than any we may long for and may not afford.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 26 November 2008

Every year the Christmas season seems to visit us earlier. This is true in terms of decorations and streetlights well visible in all Towns and shops by now. This time of year is both welcomed and dreaded with the same amounts of childhood enthusiasm and perhaps adult anxiety, excitement, fear and stress. Christmas this year, is particularly a test of our consumer confidence in the face of economic slowdown and global recession, will we continue to spend more than we can afford, in an effort no doubt to create a happy time for all our loved ones. For children Christmas awakens a wonder and magic that is very beautiful, from letters and visits to Santa, to a real openness to the baby Jesus whose humble birth speaks louder than ever this Christmas, to a people worried about employment, mortgage repayments and the cost of living in a world that has got so fast and busy.

Next Sunday we begin the liturgical Season of Advent. This is a time of preparation and indeed a time for all of us to grow in our hope that God wants us to possess in our heart. The Prophet Isaiah foretold “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” Advent is a time for all of us to grow in hope and to avail of the spiritual gifts that are truly greater than any we may long for and may not afford. Advent is the great gift for anyone who has experienced darkness and vulnerability, which in truth is perhaps all who may read this article. Jesus whose birth we prepare for during this time of Advent is often forgotten in the busy run up to Christmas. Perhaps if we ponder more on Jesus our lives will change for the better in a very real way this Christmas.

Jesus wants to plant his light and hope in the places of our stories that may de darkened and overshadowed by the bruises of life that we all carry and indeed feel at times. Where sickness, addiction, bereavement, separation, depression and anxiety prevail Christ the lord of light, wants to heal and transform. Just as his birth happened in a place of poverty and humility, so too in this time of winter darkness, the light of Christ wants to shine firstly in the places of pain and uncertainty that are felt in our lives.

The more we long for God the greater his birth will be in our hearts. The more we are in different in his presence and relevance the greater the gift of faith and fulfillment he will bless us in our lives. Christ’s light is a bright source of love and joy that is freely available for all people. The heart of Christ is firstly open to the places where we may be lost and broken. My prayer is that all of us will grow in a peace and joy this advent that God wants us to enjoy. Ask God with confidence every day to be born again in my heart. The great prayer of Advent is simply, Maranatha, “Come Lord Jesus”