I do a few weddings in my line of work. It is a joy to share this time of celebration with brides and grooms and to help them make Jesus an important part of their love together. As I look at my upcoming year at the moment, I see seven weddings on the schedule – and that will likely go up after the beautiful holiday season, when boyfriends finally get up the courage to pop the question.
With that experience comes something that was never a part of my correspondence experience until about 10 or 15 years ago: the “Save the date” card. You’ve all gotten these, right – a lovely postcard on sturdy stock paper, with a cute photo of the happy couple in an autumn forest, or next to a lake, or in the mountains, staring enraptured into each other’s eyes? It will alert me that there is a wedding coming, and that I better make room on my calendar for it.
The “Save the date” card is not the invitation. That will come later – with the embossed ivory paper, tissue (for some reason), and a self-addressed stamped reply envelope. No. This first card is your warning that the event is coming. If you want to go, you will make plans; if not, you will make other plans to be away that day.
Jesus provides such an experience today, as we begin the holy season of Advent. However, His “save the date” notice is not very helpful for scheduling purposes: “You do not know when the time will come,” and “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping!”
Come on, Jesus! How am I supposed to plan based on that information? I have other things to do, you know.
What is occupying your calendars right now? What is on your lists? We all have those lists, right? Especially at this time of year, we have places to go, people to see, and things to get done. We do not need the added stress of worrying about Jesus popping up and entering our lives completely and finally, do we? Let’s just let Him stay over there, and we will get around to Him.
So, what do I do with this sort of “save the date?” I will admit, sometimes I will set such a card on my desk, and it will get shuffled into the other papers that come through my office, and I will lose and/or forget about the event that I am invited to anticipate. It’s embarrassing to forget such things – and it creates no small amount of stress for me. Therefore, it is a good practice to take that announcement, check my calendar, and make a mark of it. Then, nothing can come along to interfere, unless it’s much more important.
The Lord is calling us to similar behavior. However, this is not just some party or hoity-toity event – it is the event: the arrival of the Son of God; the fulfillment of our entire existence; our purpose for existing. Is that existence focused and centered on Christ, or do we have other things that occupy first place in our catalogue of worries? Does a call to faithful watching come as an interruption or an annoyance in the midst of the other worldly things that we occupy ourselves with?
Advent is a time to refocus ourselves on that invitation from Jesus to watch and anticipate His presence in our lives. It is meant to bring us back into an awareness of God’s goodness to us and to imitate that goodness toward others. This holy season is an invitation to “save the date” for Jesus, so that we are set on welcoming Him whenever He comes to us: be it in the needs of our brothers and sisters; or in the encounters with Him in the Sacraments; and finally, in the glorious arrival of the Lord of life.
Save the date, friends! The invitations are printed – and, in fact, we have already received those. It’s no longer a matter of where or when. When it comes to Jesus, the time is always now.