Our culture tells us that we should expect great things come December 25, as do the readings of the Third Sunday of Advent. Of course, what culture and Scripture suggest are not necessarily in alignment, although both certainly suggest that things will be great only with proper preparation.In the case of culture, preparation is all about buying — buy more, buy now, buy even if you can’t reasonably afford it, but by all means, buy, or you’ll be one sorry individual come Christmas morning. Now, it may be that merchants are suggesting we should buy more so we can give more, which is a wonderfully noble pursuit at this or any time of year. Or it would be, if we weren’t so terribly worried about size, color, assembly, shelf-life, all those swell little complications that make buying and giving, all too often, a season of high anxiety instead of great joy.Scripture offers us something radically different in the way of gift. It is nothing we have to buy; we only need to be ready to receive, as John the Baptist suggests in today’s Gospel. And part of being ready to receive, John makes clear, means to share your wealth, stop giving others grief, and lay off the greed.Why? Because the Greatest Gift of all is coming, a Gift that the prophet Zephaniah heralds in today’s first reading: “The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”Both the Responsorial Psalm (from Isaiah: “Cry out with joy and gladness!”) and St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (“Rejoice in the Lord always!”) reiterate that message of hope, mixed in with a healthy dose of thanksgiving — something too often lost or overlooked in this hectic season. “Have no anxiety at all,” Paul suggests, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”Does that mean drawing up a Christmas list? It might, but we would do well to keep in mind that we have already received the Greatest Gift — the perfect Gift, in fact, a one-size-fits-all Gift that offers peace, love and comfort which no store in the mall or online catalog can begin to provide.Great things, indeed.
Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus).