The Friday Thought - Find time for God at Christmas

Reluctantly I was forced to go shopping last Thursday evening. I had left it late and the only company I had was my nearly maxed out credit card.

As I wondered around the shops trying to find shelter from the wind, rain and hail I nevertheless had a warm feeling in my heart thanks to events in Switzerland on Wednesday night.

I had everything planned but accidents do happen. At the start of November I had brought Fr Canny a new pair of football boots for Christmas.

Worse followed, I’ve lost the receipt and I had to buy house slippers instead, unfortunately they only come in pairs. I got Fr Roland the last West Life CD, there was a special edition Sing-a-long DVD but the double glazing in the parochial house isn’t fully fitted yet, so I’m not too sure about that either. I didn’t know what to buy our Deacon, James - as a Celtic supporter he’s not really into football. So might have to get him a black V-neck jumper instead.

It used to be safe to watch television on Thursday nights, without any worries or concerns you could flick around channels such as Channel 5 or ITV 4 without having to worry about being upset or put in bad form.

Unfortunately I’m afraid this is no longerthe case now, with Manchester United in the Europa League it will no longer possible to watch TV on Thursday night for fear of watching them play at 6pm in the evening in some remote part of Europe. You can put a cost on almost anything, yet some events are priceless.

The result has increased my excitement with Christmas just around the corner. I can’t remember what I received as presents last year; chances are I’m wearing some of them now. However, at home we have to be careful what presents we put under the Christmas tree because of my sister’s wee big dog. This time last year the pet was tiny, and we were assured the creature wouldn’t become too big, after all it’s a house dog.

For a few months all was well, until the dog kept getting bigger. If you saw her you might think she is tiny but you’re not standing in my shoes. Some would describe her as an ankle biter, for me it’s more a case of the back of the knee.

Moreover we reached crisis point at home when the dog became big enough to jump on the sofa, now nowhere was safe or out of her reach. I wouldn’t mind as much if she only jumped up and sat on your lap. Unfortunately this canine’s on steroids, she’s outgrown the stage when she got too excited and accidents happened resulting in a change of clothes.

Now she jumps all over you and if she has been out in the park, a change of clothes is called for. Bad as this is, what I can’t cope with is a being licked by the dog. I’ll pet her all day and ruffle her head and ears but I can’t handle been licked by the wee hound. It’s traumatic if she licks my hand, when she licks my face I have to be worked with, but thankfully my mother’s always at hand with a face cloth.

On the third Sunday of Advent we have reached the half way point in our journey and for this we’re thankful.

We rejoice today as we prepare to celebrate the first coming of God’s Son as a child, while opening our hearts and minds to the fact that Christ will come again at the end of time. In the midst of our rushing about, our frantic search for presents and decorations we have to listen to the voice of John the Baptist. John is one of the most important and central figures in the story of Advent.

His whole life was lived as a preparation for the coming of Jesus. John had a powerful sense of his own mission; he knew he had been sent by God to open our hearts and minds to the Son of God’s presence in our lives.

This is the big challenge for all of us, do we have time to listen to the voice of the Baptist who directs us towards Jesus. John is calling all of us back from our busy and hectic lives to find time for God. John the Baptist will remain a voice crying in the wilderness unless we change our lives.

At one level we asked to listen to John, where can we find his voice in our world today.

Who are the modern prophets calling us back to walk in the way of the Lord? Can we recognise the people in our lives who are trying to be guiding lights? Sometimes we dismiss them through jealously or misunderstanding them. Unless we have a definite sense of our own mission in life, unless we have spent time with Jesus we will fail recognise him in our midst and we will never be able to live out our baptismal calling.

Each and every one of us has been given a unique mission and calling. While our gifts and talents differ, what unites us is God’s universal demand to make him known through what we say and in what we do. We’re all asked to be like John the Baptist, making the way straight, by removing the barriers and obstacles in our lives which prevent others from recognising God in our midst. This is our common vocation to allow God’s light to shine in our lives as we guide each other as brothers and sisters.