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Clare Lazzuri

Juan Diego, John the Baptist both prepare the way

Voices Dec. 5, 2017

In addition to the traditional Advent wreath, a great way to build anticipation for Christmas is to tell the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feasts are approaching. (Paul Haring / CNS)

Second Sunday of Advent: Mk 1:1-8

Everywhere we turn there’s a Christmas countdown. “Fourteen Days until Christmas Eve,” are words that can instill excitement – or fear. The closer Christmas gets the more it might make us panic. Are we ready? More specifically, as St. John the Baptist reminds us this Sunday, are we prepared?

But really, what are we preparing for this Advent? Are we preparing for a marathon shopping trip? Making a spreadsheet to schedule all that Christmas baking? Figuring out how to wrap the presents without interruption?

Or are we preparing for the arrival of our king? Have you told your children that a king is coming to visit? Actually, it’s more than a visit, he’s a permanent guest. If your preparations for Christmas are crowding in on you and you are losing focus on what you are getting ready for, take a moment to sit with your family, read the Gospel, and look at where the Church takes us on this Second Week of Advent.

Advent is short this year (only 21 days). Now, almost at the halfway mark, we are told in the Gospel of Mark about the rather crazy-looking John the Baptist. Here is a guy who seems to be going to extremes: clothed in camel hair, eating locusts and wild honey, baptizing people in the Jordan River. His presence is foretold in the First Reading from Isaiah, which says: “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!”

Not only is John the Baptist from the wilderness, he appears to be a bit of a wild character. But his wildness has a purpose and that is his urgent message.  He is on a mission to urge people to be ready for receive the most important person who will ever walk the earth – the Son of God.

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to set up your Nativity set. Make an event out of it. Build up the anticipation by hiding baby Jesus in a special spot until his “actual birthday.” A great way to build up some anticipation, just like St. John the Baptist did, is to tell the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast is celebrated this week on Dec. 12. (The Feast of Juan Diego is Dec. 9, but the two feasts are so connected it makes sense to have one celebration).

Plan your family’s favourite Mexican dishes for this night. If you have a sombrero in the house maybe one of the children can don the hat and tell the story of the peasant Mexican, who was asked by Our Lady to be a special missionary of her message of love and mercy to the Mexican people. Juan’s role was very much like that of St. John the Baptist, which makes this story perfect for Advent. He was a messenger – a humble, poor, unlikely one – who had to be brave before the bishop and those in power so he could bear witness to Christ and his Mother. This act of obedience resulted in the miracle of the image, still visible today, of Our Lady of Guadalupe imprinted on Juan’s tilma and the conversion of a whole nation.

Another detail in the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe that makes it especially appropriate for Advent is that in Mary's appearance to Juan Diego, she is pregnant. The manner of her dress, the black sash around her middle and the four-petal flower over her womb, indicate pregnancy. Why did Mary appear this way? An expectant Mary reminded the Aztec people of the time, who were still steeped in practising human sacrifice, that within her womb is the one, true sacrifice that God sent for all people.

To celebrate this beautiful feast day, there are many Mexican treats that your family can enjoy. Go to Catholiccuisine.blogspot.com for some great ideas. Our family highly recommends the Mexican chocolate cake and the Mexican wedding cookies.

Taking the time to feast in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Juan Diego, and other important saints can help us remember why we are counting down. It’s probably not the same reason the radio stations and Facebook are counting the days, but Christians have the best reason for all these preparations and countdowns – the arrival of their saviour. No reason for fear or panic this Advent; Jesus is the best house guest you will ever have.

Lazzuri is a mother of six and writes from her home in Nova Scotia.