Donal Neary SJ: Waiting for Christmas
Donal Neary SJ explores the theme of ‘waiting’ for the season of Advent and helps people to find the meaning of Christmas in both the mainstream and the religious fields of life.
Fr Neary, who is editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger magazine, draws from his reflections on the weekday readings in The Messenger Advent Booklet » and on the Sunday readings from the Irish Jesuit Facebook page ».
According to Fr Neary, “Advent is the annual season of waiting. We wait for the same reason every year, and we are certain that the One we await – a person, Jesus, Son of God – will arrive on time. Yet, we find that the waiting is new each year, as Jesus is ever new.”
Donal says that some people don’t like the waiting whilst others “enter enthusiastically into Advent, which in some countries now starts in October. Maybe we are happy to wait in patience and quiet.”
Regarding the importance of waiting in family life, Fr Neary reflects:
The best waiting, like waiting for birth, is slow. Parents wonder about their child – who will he/she be like? The mother needs support and love; the children look forward to another baby; grandparents wait in pride.
Even when the family situation is limited, we wait in joy and hope for the child just like Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah and all the Bible parents who waited, often for many years.
Donal also invites people to let Advent bring them closer to God and to other people in their lives. He asks:
“How is my faith this year from last year? And what would I be asking for? Would I promise anything that would help me wait actively for Jesus – Mass more often than Sunday, the Angelus every day, reading the gospel daily? Would I promise to be kinder and more just, care for the poor and needy at home or away? ”
Moreover, Fr Neary helps people to look to Christmas with hope and love. He writes:
“All of us have something in mind that we really anticipate for Christmas. As children it was the arrival of Santy, the uncle who always brought a good present or the ten-shilling note from granny. Some of us look forward to the gifts, family gatherings, and the outing to the pantomime.
The people of God had something to look forward to – the blind would see when Christ came, the deaf would hear, shame would be lifted because God is near and creation would be cared for. The poor and the lowly would rejoice. So let’s look forward and get a lift in the heart, remembering always those who have little to look forward to – those who pitch their tent in the street, or who just hope the family meeting will be peaceful.”
Fr Donal Neary SJ is the author of many books on the Advent and Lenten season, and recently published Gospel Reflections for Years A, B and C (Messenger Publications) ». He formerly worked as chaplain in the Mater Dei Institute of Education and as parish priest of St Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner St, Dublin.