3rd week of Advent joy, expectation…and defiant Christmas trees

This weekend we continue to build up the sense of expectation, the call to turn towards the Lord and adjust who we are. Last week we heard of John the Baptist calling people out into the wilderness to preach to them, and this week we get to hear the answer to the key question “What must we do?” (Luke 3:10). Three people ask John that question, and they are given the answers “share with those who have none”, “Take no more than you are due” and “Do not intimidate or extort.“ Put it simply – Share, be fair and be kind. When John was speaking to the crowds many of the people asking the aforementioned questions were those who required a change of attitude lets say. The scholar Scott Hahn tells us that the crowds, soldiers and tax collectors must prove their faith through works of charity, honesty and social justice. These are very much basics of our faith, things we know all too well how to do. When we look at all that is taking place in school right now with the Christmas Hampers, World Gifts and other fundraising that is exactly what John called us to do in order to be ready for Jesus.

The other readings of Gaudete Sunday (Joy!) share a message of anticipation and expectation, St Paul says “Rejoice! . . . The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all,” (Phil 4:4,5). The proclamation from Zephaniah is wondrous in its message: “He will exult with joy over you, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shouts of joy for you.” (Zephaniah 3:17-18). Which leads me to finish on the joy Christmas lights and trees can bring. From the high standard of Christmas decorations and lighting set by Home Alone some thirty years ago, to the level of effort put in by so many of us today. Christmas trees have become an epicentre of joy for the season. I came across this enlightening reflection from a hospital chaplain all about the defiance of Christmas trees…

Defiant Christmas Trees

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (Jn. 1:5)

With December, Christmas trees begin to appear.

We suddenly notice they are in our hospitals, our office buildings, and the vast variety of sites where we deliver health care. We also find them in shopping centres, on lawns, and coming through the television with steady, even annoying, regularity. In fact, for many of us, the furniture is moved aside to make room for the tree to join us in our homes. They seem to be everywhere. Christmas trees may be hard to avoid, but their message is easy to miss.

Spiritual traditions interpret December as the season the sun arrives late and leaves early. More scientifically, the earth is turning in such a way that we are in darkness more than at other times of the year. This greater darkness symbolises the growing power of all that afflicts us – in body, mind, society, and spirit. Winter brings with it a sense of our vulnerability. As an antidote, Christmas trees accompany the darkness of December. They are symbolic push backs to the absence of light. Their branches are not bare but full, leafy, and strung with lights. Their power glows, radiates, shines. They are not victims of the December darkness, and they refuse to allow it to dominate. Their brightness is defiant.

What is the message of this defiance? Enter the Christmas tree. Its lights say: “Give all the things that afflict us their due, but do not give them our soul. There is something stronger in us than the surrounding darkness.”

Mr M Robinson
Lay Chaplain