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The Long Walk To Christmas

Fr. Joel Church meets World

I recently attended a meeting at the Diocese with Bishop Ricken and 20 or so priests. We went around in a circle to introduce ourselves and, ‘name your favorite season.’ I think Fall was the front runner, followed by Summer, Spring, and a few Winters (which elicited groans from the other attendees). As it circled around, one of the last ones said, “I’m Father so-and-so and my favorite season is Advent.” In a group of priests, only one thought to name a Liturgical season. And liturgical seasons include Christmas and Easter, why Advent? As we reach the third week of Advent, I’m starting to agree with him. First off, I love the looks on peoples’ faces when I wear pink, er…, Rose, vestments. But second of all, I love the almost-but-not-yet that comes with this season. It is full of anticipation.

Our world hates anticipation. We are surprised when we buy a package on Amazon and it won’t arrive for 3 whole days. Sex before marriage is the norm. The few engaged couples who choose chastity often find their friends (and even their parents) pressuring them to move in together before they get married. But expectation deepens the joy. It’s worth waiting for a lifetime of married memories. Our church building project began to take shape in the spring of 2014, almost 5 years ago! The process seemed to be taking so long. All the meetings, the conversations, the fundraising… Would we ever get there?

I am reminded of a time Relevant Radio interviewed walking pilgrims. The interviewer assumed that the pay-off was arriving at the shrine. Sure, you could ride a bus and enjoy pulling up at the door, but walking five days made the moment that much sweeter. I had a hard time explaining to him that pilgrims enjoyed the journey. Not all of it, certainly: there are hard days and bugs and rain and blisters. But there are “pay-offs” all along the way: the outdoors, Christian camaraderie, surprise joys, great food. It’s not all about arriving; the journey is precious, too. Building the church has a great pay-off, but it’s been a great journey. Advent is the walking pilgrimage to Christmas. Enjoy the journey. ¡Buen Camino!