It is hard to believe, but we are just two weeks away from the end of the Church’s year and the beginning of Advent. At this time of year, although our Scriptural Readings are on the ending of life and the hope that the promised Messiah brings, the world around us celebrates with very little reflection, simply wanting to have a good time. As the Christian tradition asks us to quietly ponder the mystery of our being visited by God, and to wait in wonder for the Christmas encounter, the world around us pops all the corks, lights up the trees, fills the streets with parades and the shops with fancy gift ideas and tells us to party long and loud. For the world around us, Christmas ends up being the day for exhausted partygoers to crash – and it’s not much different for Christians; we can’t easily escape the hype and the pressure, the revelry and consequently the exhaustion. The world around us – and of which we’re a part - celebrates Christmas before it comes. So today’s readings calling for caution, reminding us of the ending of things; seems quite out of place. But it’s the world around us that misses the point. The Christian story begins, not with Christmas, but with a sense of expectation. Our story, like the story of life, is essentially one of waiting. The Hebrew prophets pointed to a time when God would provide a way through the maze of problems, doubts and anxieties that confront humankind and we believe Jesus is that way. Year by year we celebrate that coming, but we also need to keep tuned in to why He came. Uncertainty and fear are still part of the human condition; we remain vulnerable to selfishness and the pain it can cause. We need to keep returning to the source of our peace and we need to keep trying to be worthy of the gift that is Jesus. That is why the time before Christmas is important not for partying but for preparing. The party should come with Christmas itself. The ads announce there are less than 40 shopping days left till Christmas! While we can’t avoid that kind of pressure, we can take some of those days to shop in the spiritual market for moments of quiet to put our lives in order, to heal a relationship, to strengthen our awareness of just how much we are loved by God and how we might respond to that love. We need to realize, however, that without adequate preparation we’ll never fully appreciate either the privilege or the gift that God gives to us every day of our lives. If celebrations continue to cancel preparation, Christmas will be over before it arrives and we’ll be no wiser as to what it really means.