3rd Sunday of Advent B

This is the time of the year when people talk about “Christmas Spirit.”  It is a good thing.  It is an expectation that all will find this a joyous time.  That people will be friendlier, more caring and even more generous whether we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ or not. It is summed up perhaps by the song “It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas.”  Anything in this day and age that promotes a more congenial feeling, anything that strives for harmony among people is a good thing.

But for those of us who believe that the birth of Jesus Christ ushered in a new era of human history; for those who find the beginning of their salvation in that moment in Bethlehem, the Spirit of Christmas means something entirely different.  It is the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit that overshadowed Mary and suddenly the “Lord was with” her.  It is the Spirit that drove John the Baptist into the desert and in the words of today’s Preface “sang of his coming and proclaimed his presence when he came.”  It was a Spirit so evident even in an infant that shepherds left their fields at the urging of an angel and magi came from the East with gifts.  Despite the spare circumstances they encountered for this new born king, they did not leave disappointed.

Most importantly, when the Son of God came among us, his Spirit was unleashed in the world.  It would drive him to share divine wisdom, to create a community of love and led him to the cross.  It is the same Spirit that raised him.  And remarkably, for those baptized into his name, the same Spirit inhabits us.  Yes, the Spirit that made Jesus Jesus is within us and transforming us.  When we acknowledge that we are carriers of God’s Spirit, we must look again at ourselves. St. Athanasius said that God became human so that we might become God.  So we must be strong, for if God is not strong than what could be strong.  We must be wise for the agile Spirit of God that is the font of all wisdom is God’s gift to us.  We must be beautiful, for the Spirit ensures that we are made in the image of God from whom all beauty comes.  And we must be loving for God is love.  The Holy Spirit is meant to define our lives.

Oh there are certainly other Spirits lurking within us.  Not everything or everyone is holy.  A couple of weeks ago I was a mess at mass.  I stumbled over words, said the wrong prayer at the wrong time.  I felt horrible about that Sunday.  It made me look back over my week and I realized that my prayer had not been as good as it usually is.  That I had lacked focus on God all during the week.  Without connecting more intimately with the Spirit, I was not the best I could be.  So I got back to work on my prayer, my gratefulness and my service so that the Spirit of Christ would be more evident in me. As we are reminded in the second reading, “Do not quench the Spirit.”

Imagine an entire people who are generous, caring and good and moved by God.  Imagine a community and a church that knew they were divinely strong, wise, beautiful and loving.  Those are the people who can fulfill the vision of Isaiah whom the Spirit anointed; a vision that Christ would make his own to “bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD.”  We can speak to the poor about compassion and justice and to the poor in spirit of the hope we have found in our faith.  We can cry with the brokenhearted and promise then of the good things to come. We can release those captive to addictions or ruinous patterns of behavior with the new way of Jesus.  Imagine a community so joined in the Holy Spirit that we dare to announce that this year, for all the trials and the division we face, will be a year of favor from the Lord for his Spirit will lead our actions.  Then we will truly bring forth the kingdom of God.

So when we ask for the Spirit of Christmas this year, let us ask more boldly and believe more deeply.  Let us dare to be beautiful, wise, strong and loving. Then we will truly be disciples of Christ fulfilling the prayer of the angels to the shepherds, giving “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”