Preparing for Advent and Christmas after Hurricane Maria
"A voice cries: Prepare a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God… then the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed". Is 40:3-5.
We are entering the season of Advent, a period of preparation for the celebration of Christmas.
Traditionally, it is a period during which we clean and scrub every cupboard, crevice and corner in our homes.
It is a period during which we happily replace the old and the not so old household items with new ones.
It is a period during which we think of the gifts we will give family members, and drop hints to them of the gifts we would like them to give to us.
It is a period, above all, during which we reflect on God's magnanimity towards us, as we prepare ourselves to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas.
This year, 2017, the cleaning of our homes will take on a different aspect. Perhaps at no other time within living memory has there been the necessity for so great an amount of cleaning and discarding of items before Christmas. Unlike other years, however, many of the items will not be replaced; some, because of cost; others (like books and photographs) because they are irreplaceable.
More vigour will be needed to eradicate the grime, mould and odour caused by Maria.
As we approach Christmas, especially if we have young children, our anxiety will increase, as we wonder what our Christmas celebration will be like this year. Many of us will still be under tarpaulins, many of us will still be without electricity, while some will still be in shelters.
Yet, even as we scrub to eliminate the stains and the dirt of Maria, even as we long for restoration of light and electrical power, even while we do all we can to repair our damaged homes, so too we should pray for grace and strength to "scrub" from our hearts any "stains", any obstacles which would hinder or obstruct us from having a true celebration of Christmas.
On the subject of "gifts" I think we as a nation have received and continue to receive gifts in abundance. I still marvel at the large number of regional and international organisations which came to our aid after Maria, some of which are still here, assisting in different areas. I feel humbled by the generosity of relatives and friends overseas, so solicitous about our welfare.
What "gifts" can we give in return? How can we as a nation, as individuals, show our gratitude and appreciation? Like the Little Drummer Boy, our gifts can be the use of our talents. Whatever the nature of our spiritual exercises as we prepare for Christmas, appreciation of those responsible of restoring life to some degree of normality should be on our "to do" list.
We say "thank you" to those who face the dust and stench to clean the streets. We say "thank you" to those who work overtime to restore water and electricity, to those who ensure that salaries and allowances are paid on time, to all who are responsible for maintaining law and order, in short, to all who assist in rebuilding our country.
As we enter the Christmas season, we pray that Peace and Joy will reign in situations where tempers flare so readily. We pray that our actions will help bring about and spread that Peace and Joy; that our "Advent" will not be one of "passive waiting", whether for handouts, or for others to do for us, but one where we are "awake"; where we reach out to those in need of any help in whatever form we can give. Let our Advent be one where we sincerely await the birth of our Saviour in our hearts.
Let us wish ourselves and one another a Blessed, Peaceful, Joyful Christmas.